Wildfires Spread Across Colorado, Arkansas

Snowfall helped crews battling a wind-driven, 5,000-acre wildfire Monday that had destroyed at least three homes and forced 40 people to evacuate in a southern Colorado town.

About a dozen people were allowed to return to their homes in Aguilar, not far from the New Mexico line, by midday Monday, fire information officer Ralph Bellah said.

No injuries were reported since the fire started Saturday.

U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Barb Timock said the fire was human-caused but that no other details were available.

Six inches of snow fell overnight and more fell Monday morning before giving way to sunny skies.

"Snow always helps," fire command center spokesman Steve Hodges said. "The unfortunate thing is, even with 6 inches, we still have 60-foot trees."

The fire in the Spanish Peaks area, about 160 miles south of Denver, was roughly 5 percent contained, authorities said. Wind gusts of up to 74 mph were reported Sunday.

That blaze, and at least 43 wildfires in Arkansas, followed fires on the drought-parched southern Plains that have ravaged parts of Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. At least 475 homes have been destroyed and five people have been killed.

Among the Arkansas wildfires, a 3,000-acre fire in Ashley County was still burning Monday but was mostly surrounded by fire lines. It had destroyed four homes and four other buildings, but no injuries had been reported.

Arkansas Forestry Commission spokeswoman Tonja Kelly said Monday the big fire in Ashley County and a smaller one nearby were arson, and county and state officials would investigate.

Arson also was blamed for two small grass fires less than a mile apart in Oklahoma City on Sunday. The fires destroyed one home and damaged another, said battalion chief Kirk Wright.

Oklahoma fire crews responded to more than 30 fires Sunday, including one that charred about 6,000 acres, according to the state's incident command center in Shawnee.

Despite heavy snowfall this winter in parts of the Colorado mountains, the region of forests, brush and grass just east of the peaks has been dry and the Forest Service rates the fire danger as very high to extreme.

One woman who lost her home to the Aguilar flames said she escaped only because of a warning from her neighbors.

"We had no time to do anything but run," said Eva Holmes, a retiree whose home was still under construction.