2,000 Residents Evacuated in Colorado Wildfire

A fast-moving wildfire burning at the base of Storm King Mountain early Sunday damaged at least 40 structures and forced 2,000 people to evacuate homes near this resort community.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or a count of how many homes had burned, but some of the damage was in a trailer park, said Nan Sundeen, spokeswoman for agencies fighting the fire.

The Colorado National Guard sent 100 soldiers to help with security.

With flames visible on the hillside above during a news conference at the Garfield County Courthouse, officials said Sunday they feared afternoon high wind would complicate the task of fighting the fire.

"Today we expect almost a repeat of the weather we had yesterday. We are little bit better prepared to address that but we're still at the whim of the winds and what Mother Nature has to offer," said fire boss Frankie Romero.

For residents of the area, between Vail and Aspen, the flames were a painful reminder of the 1994 fire on Storm King Mountain that killed 14 firefighters.

"Obviously Storm king was a very difficult and destructive fire for this community and we still bear those scars. This fire is very reminiscent of that," said Sheriff Tom Dalessandri.

Mike Henry, a realtor, said there were flames in his backyard when he fled Saturday night. "Based on the situation as I left, I have very little doubt that wasn't at least some damage to my house," he said.

Sundeen said the wildfire had quieted down as temperatures dropped and humidity increased overnight. It was believed to cover 4,000 to 7,000 acres Sunday morning. Interstate 70 was closed to westbound traffic.

The fire reported Saturday apparently was ignited by underground coal that had been burning for years, said Liz Mauch, spokeswoman for the Grand Junction Interagency Fire Dispatch Center.

Resident Cheryl Dunlap said her brother's home and at least four others were damaged or destroyed on Saturday.

"My brother turned around and he saw 50-foot flames up the hill and they jumped in (the car) and left," Dunlap told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

In California, coastal fog helped firefighters turn the tide on a wildfire that had destroyed nine homes and consumed 23,500 acres north of Los Angeles. Some 1,500 residents who fled small forest communities in the path of the wildfire returned to their homes Saturday evening.

"We still have winds gusting upward of 30 miles per hour, but with the humidity and fire lines the crews have been creating, we have a nice buffer," said Martin Esparza, a spokesman with the U.S. Forest Service.

The fire was accidentally ignited Wednesday by a grinding tool and became California's most dangerous wildfire Thursday evening when it suddenly quadrupled in size.

In southern Utah, a wildfire near Zion National Park grew to more than 1,500 acres Saturday evening and threatened 20 vacation homes.