NEW CASTLE, Colo. – Crews battling a 1,800-acre wildfire in western Colorado got a break Wednesday from the strong winds that quickly spread the flames the previous two days.
Firefighters took advantage of calm winds to extend containment lines around about half the fire, which has forced the evacuation of 90 homes in steep and brush and tree-covered terrain about 160 miles west of Denver.
No structures had burned, although some came within a half-mile of the flames.
Erratic afternoon winds have been a problem in fighting the 2.8- square-mile fire, which was burning on steep terrain about 160 miles west of Denver near New Castle — close to the site of the another fire that killed 14 firefighters in 1994.
Part of the fire's growth to 1,800 acres from 1,000 acres was due to the controlled burn and part due to a run the flames made to the north, fire officials said. There are no homes north of the blaze.
"The winds didn't pick up today the way we thought. That was good news," Bureau of Land Management David Boyd said.
Crews set a small, controlled fire — or a "back burn" — between the wildfire and scores of houses to remove vegetation that could fuel spreading flames, Garfield County sheriff's spokeswoman Tanny McGinnis said.
Electricity was cut to some homes in the fire area near Glenwood Springs to reduce the danger of power lines starting another fire, falling on firefighters or entangling low-flying firefighting aircraft.
About 200 ground firefighters, two heavy air tankers, two single-engine planes and four helicopters were on the scene. One firefighter injured his hand and another suffered heat exhaustion.
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said it would be at least Thursday before any of the evacuees could go home. Besides the 90 homes ordered evacuated Monday and Tuesday, residents of another 110 were on alert.
About 20 miles west of the New Castle fire, a second blaze had burned more than 1,000 remote and rugged acres — or 1.5 square miles — by Wednesday. All but 30 of the 120 firefighters were being let go and crews expected to have the fire fully contained by night.
Both fires were blamed on lightning strikes Sunday.