Searing heat and dry, gusting wind spread a wildfire across 2,400 acres of southern Colorado, forcing the evacuation of 150 homes as flames crawled along mountain ridges west of Pueblo.
The flames had burned to within 100 yards of Greenwood, and fire crews stood guard over the small community Saturday.
“We could see the trees explode,” said Bill Mauger, 73, who watched with his wife as the fire climbed ridgelines. “You could hear crackling and smoke come off the trees. It was like a bomb going off.”
More than 300 firefighters struggled against temperatures in the 90s and erratic winds. By evening, only about five percent of the lightning-sparked blaze had been contained, officials said.
In all, 14 large wildfires were burning across more than 700,000 acres in eight states Saturday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Since January, wildfires have burned slightly more than 3 million acres, similar to the acreage burned by this date last year.
Anti-gay graffiti, fire discovered at church
A small fire and anti-gay graffiti were found Saturday at a church belonging to the United Church of Christ, a denomination that endorsed same-sex marriage last week.
The exterior of St. John’s Reformed United Church of Christ also included a message that United Church of Christ members were sinners.
A member of the congregation discovered the graffiti when he stopped by to mow the grass. He found a small fire within the sanctuary. The fire was put out in a few minutes, Lt. Tim McCray said.
The fire came a day after two black churches were heavily damaged by seven arson fires in Sparta, Tenn. Authorities said there was no evidence that it was a hate crime, but they were not ruling anything out.
Someone also tried to set fire to a mosque early Saturday in Bloomington, Ind., and the FBI was investigating it as a hate crime.
The United Church of Christ’s rule-making body endorsed a resolution July 4 endorsing same-sex marriage.
NAACP wants nominee that backs civil rights
The new Supreme Court justice must be a strong advocate for civil rights, and NAACP members are pressuring lawmakers to make that a priority in the selection process, NAACP officials said at the group’s annual convention Saturday.
“We very badly want to support a nominee committed to justice and fair play,” said Julian Bond, chairman of the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Bond’s comments came on the opening day of the group’s 96th annual convention.
The gathering comes as the group works to overcome budget shortfalls and recover from allegations that its former president, Kweisi Mfume, played favorites among employees and mismanaged the national staff. It is also fighting an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, which claims that NAACP officials’ strong criticisms of the Bush administration violated the group’s nonprofit status.
Last month, the Baltimore-based nonprofit selected a new president, Bruce S. Gordon, who will start in the job Aug. 1.
Antique map dealer charged with thefts
New Haven, Conn.
A prominent dealer in antique maps and atlases is charged with stealing rare maps from Yale University, and the FBI says he may have targeted other libraries that have items missing from their collections.
E. Forbes Smiley III, 49, of Chilmark, Mass., faces three larceny charges. State Judge Richard Damiani set bail at $175,000 when Smiley appeared in New Haven Superior Court on Friday and prohibited him from leaving the country.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Smiley was caught on June 8 stealing maps worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Smiley, a longtime New York dealer, helped put together collections at the New York Public Library and the Boston Public Library.