May 19, 1996 in Nation/World

Wind Whips Up Colorado Forest Fire

Associated Press
 

Several hundred people were evacuated from this tiny mountain town and nearby campgrounds Saturday as a forest fire raging in wind-dried ponderosa pine covered 3,000 acres in a just a few hours.

“It’s rocking and rolling in heavy fuels of ponderosa pine and is driven by winds,” said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Dave Steinke.

High winds of up to 39 mph were helping feed the fire, although the gusts were expected to die down about sunset, officials said. The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately known.

“Everyone is sitting around and praying it won’t get us,” said Mary Green, who operates a grocery store in Buffalo Creek.

Smoke from the fire at the 7,500-foot elevation in the foothills looked like a huge thunderstorm cloud in Denver, 30 miles away.

“It’s burning very intensely,” said Dennis Neill, a spokesman for the forest service. “This has the look of one that will take some time and effort to contain.”

The Spring Creek development also was evacuated. The fire raced out of control shortly after it was first spotted by campers and residents shortly before noon, officials said. School buses were called in to help in the evacuation.

At least one Forest Service ground crew was working the fire and more crews were ordered in. The forest service’s Pueblo base sent three planes to drop retardant chemicals on the blaze.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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