WRAY, Colo. – A large, wind-fueled grass fire on the plains of northeastern Colorado destroyed at least two homes, threatened multiple others and forced all 300 residents of a rural town to evacuate Sunday.
More than a dozen area fire departments were battling the blaze, which started at about 1:15 p.m. south of Yuma and quickly spread toward Eckley, prompting evacuation orders for the town.
The fire was about 50 percent contained late Sunday, said Mike McCaleb, emergency manager in Washington County.
Residents of an unknown number of farms in the surrounding area also were told to leave, McCaleb said.
McCaleb said the fire was burning in grass, along with corn stalks and stubble from crops harvested last year. Its cause was unknown. “We’ve been very dry throughout the winter,” he said.
Meanwhile, three firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the blaze.
Two killed, one hurt on slopes
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Authorities say two people were killed and a third was injured in three separate accidents on California mountain slopes.
The owner of China Peak Mountain Resort northeast of Fresno said a 30-year-old snowboarder was killed Sunday afternoon after falling head first in an open ski area.
In Northern California, The Sierra-at-Tahoe resort said a skier was killed in an accident. A call to an El Dorado sheriff’s spokesman seeking the circumstances of the accident was not immediately returned.
A spokesman for Kirkwood Mountain Resort said a skier was taken to a hospital after being injured in a small avalanche. Michael Dalzell said he didn’t know the extent of that person’s injury.
Search under way for balloon, pilot
FITZGERALD, Ga. – Authorities searched Sunday for a hot air balloon pilot from North Carolina who went missing in the South Georgia woods when his balloon crashed during a weekend thunderstorm.
Ben Hill County Sheriff Bobby McLemore said 63-year-old Edward Ristaino of Cornelius, N.C., was taking five skydivers into the air Friday during a festival in Fitzgerald, Ga., when a storm hit.
The skydivers, whom Ristaino told to jump from the balloon before it crashed, were not injured.
“He saved our lives,” Jessica Wesnofske, 30, one of the skydivers, told the Charlotte Observer. “Another minute, we would have been in the storm with him.”
Authorities have not found the balloon. Ristaino had brief radio contact with authorities but has not been heard from since.
“He told them he was in trouble,” the sheriff said. “He didn’t think he was going to make it.”
McLemore said crews would resume a ground- and air-search of the mostly wooded area this morning.
Three killed during regatta
TAVARES, Fla. – Two boaters have died in a collision at a central Florida regatta, bringing the number killed at the weekend event to three.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Joy Hill told the Orlando Sentinel that the Sunday afternoon collision killed 64-year-old Charles Woodruff, of Jensen Beach, and 73-year-old Dea Wiseley, of Sun City. The spokesman said Woodruff’s boat ran over the top of Wisely’s boat on Lake Dora and both men were ejected.
A day earlier, a man and a woman were ejected from their vessel while participating in a race. Hill said the woman was rescued in the water, but the man was struck and killed by another boat. The man’s name wasn’t released.
The regatta typically attracts 8,000 to 10,000 spectators, vendors and participants.
Power outage causes delays at airport
SANTA ANA, Calif. – The Federal Aviation Administration said a brief power outage at a Southern California airport’s air traffic control tower forced controllers to use portable radios to communicate with pilots and caused several flight delays.
Agency spokesman Ian Gregor said the outage Sunday at John Wayne Airport in Orange County lasted a little more than an hour.
During the outage, controllers used radios to guide pilots through landings. Gregor said around 10 departing flights were delayed by a little over a half-hour. Gregor said FAA technicians have determined what went wrong with the generator and are fixing it.