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DISASTERS

Crews Make Progress on Colorado Wildfire

BOULDER, Colo.-- Crews gained ground Friday on a wildfire that had spread quickly in the foothills west of Boulder, scorching at least 200 acres and at one time forcing the evacuation of more than 200 homes.

About 100 firefighters aided by an air tanker dropping retardant had contained 25 percent of the blaze by evening. Evacuation orders were lifted for most of the homes, but it was unclear how many people had returned home Friday night.

The U.S. Forest Service said the fire, which started in the morning, was human-caused, but didn't elaborate. The fire was threatening 12 homes and six other buildings. None had been damaged.

Wind gusts of up to 60 mph helped drive the fire through pine trees and grasses in the mountains.

Maribeth Pecotte of the Forest Service said wildfires aren't uncommon this time of year if the conditions are right.

The east side of the Colorado Rockies, including the Denver area, has been dry. Small grass fires have broken out in parts of the eastern plains this week.

The National Weather Service earlier issued a "red flag" warning, meaning the fire danger was high, along the Interstate 25 corridor and across much of eastern Colorado.

"When I saw the news this morning saying we were under red flag warnings, that always gets my hackles up a little bit," Pecotte said, "because whenever we've had these big fires, it's under red flag conditions."

A helicopter was ordered to help crews Saturday. Overnight, firefighters planned to burn off vegetation in some spots to remove fuels and keep the fire from growing.

The blaze was burning near an area where a wildfire charred nearly 10 square miles and destroyed 169 homes in September.

Tamar Stone, who has lived in the Boulder area for nine years, said this was the first time she has had to leave her home because of a wildfire.

"An officer actually came walking down my driveway, and I had a bad feeling," Stone said. "I said, 'This doesn't look good.' He said, 'Yeah, you gotta go."'

Crews also were battling a small wildfire in nearby Lyons.

Elsewhere, firefighters were quick to suppress a wildfire that damaged two homes and charred an estimated 20 acres in central New Mexico.

The fire started Friday southeast of Tajique and burned grass, juniper and pinon before crews were able to contain it. Its cause wasn't immediately known.