Snow Helps Battle Against Colorado Wildfire

Snowfall during the night helped crews battling a wind-driven, 5,000-acre wildfire Monday that had destroyed at least three homes in a southern Colorado town, but residents remained on alert for possible evacuation orders.

Residents of 215 homes near the southern Colorado town of Aguilar had already fled but no injuries were reported. U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Barb Timock said the fire was human-caused but that no other details were available.

Up to 5 inches of snow fell during the night and light snow continued falling Monday morning.

Authorities had said earlier that at least five homes were destroyed and about 6,000 acres had been blackened; they did not immediately explain the downward revision.

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.

In Oklahoma City, arson was blamed for two small grass fires less than a mile apart Sunday that 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.

In Texas, more than 60 wildfires were reported Sunday, though most were relatively small.

Despite heavy snowfall this winter in parts of the Colorado mountains, the brush- and grass-covered land 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.

Another wildfire broke out in northern Colorado, burning about 300 acres and forcing at least three dozen residents to evacuate near Carter Lake. Residents were allowed to return early Monday, when firefighters said the blaze was controlled.