WETMORE, Colo. – Residents piled children and pets into their cars before dawn Friday and fled as an erratic and fast-growing wildfire burned to within 100 yards of a rural Colorado subdivision.
"People were afraid, but it was very orderly. Nobody really panicked," fire information officer Steve Segin said. "I saw cars that were full of children, full of dogs. This one car had five Dachshunds in it."
Some residents left sprinklers going on their roofs, and fire crews were stationed through the Greenwood Village (search) subdivision 25 miles west of Pueblo, about 100 miles south of Denver.
The fire blackened 600 acres of dense trees and brush, but a counterattack by air tankers and the ground crews had kept the flames away from homes Friday afternoon.
Glen and Eileen Copper began moving their grandchildren and their goats, horses, pigs, dogs and cats from their 80 acres Thursday night as the smell of smoke seeped into their house.
"One minute we didn't see anything and thought it was OK," Eileen Cooper said. "Five minutes later, the sky was red and house smelled like smoke."
"It was scary," she said. "Once we got the kids, we knew they were going to be OK and out of danger. The rest is things. That's not as important."
The lighting-caused blaze was first reported Wednesday in dense ponderosa and pinon pine and oak brush on rugged terrain in the San Isabel National Forest (search). It grew to 100 acres as temperatures neared 100 degrees Thursday and more than doubled in size Thursday night as winds picked up.
Firefighters had identified the area as a potential trouble spot in the spring because of the dense vegetation and had tried to thin the trees with logging, Segin said, but he said the area was too wet for controlled burns.
As of Friday, 15 large wildfires were burning across nearly 700,000 acres in the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (search). In Nevada, the last of a series of wildfires sparked by lightning last month was nearly contained about 110 miles northwest of Las Vegas, authorities said.