The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

June 11, 2012

Western wildfires force evacuations

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Crews in Colorado and New Mexico battled wildfires Sunday that were moving fast through parched forests, forcing scores of evacuations and destroying or damaging numerous structures.

A blaze in northern Colorado was first reported Saturday morning and had grown to at least 8,000 acres by Sunday morning, while a fire in southern New Mexico was small for a few days until it began growing Friday, reaching about 10,000 acres.

Both fires have damaged property and forced numerous evacuations, but officials haven’t yet released specific figures on the numbers who fled.

Larimer County Sheriff’s Office spokesman John Schulz said the Colorado wildfire, burning in the mountainous Paradise Park area about 15 miles west of Fort Collins, expanded rapidly during the late afternoon and evening. By Saturday night, residents living along several roads in the region had been ordered to evacuate and many more were warned that they might have to flee. An evacuation center has been set up at a Laporte middle school.

Officials didn’t specify how many residents had evacuated but said they had sent out more than 1,500 emergency notifications urging people to be prepared to evacuate if necessary.

Law officers went door to door to alert people in the evacuation area, but officials were worried that not everyone got the word.

At least 18 structures have been destroyed or damaged, although authorities were unsure if they were homes or some other kind of buildings. No injuries have been reported, and the cause of the fire was unknown.

Authorities say it’s the worst fire seen in the county in about 25 years. It spread as fast as 1 1 1/2 miles an hour Saturday, skipping and jumping over some areas but burning intensely in trees in others. Flames were coming dangerously close to deputies who were telling some residents to evacuate, Sheriff Justin Smith said.

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