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Hundreds of homes evacuated as fire continues to grow

BOULDER - Some homes have been destroyed by a fast-moving fire in a canyon west of Boulder, but it is unclear how many. The fire is being driven by winds and has grown to 3,000 acres. The winds are making efforts difficult for firefighters.

The fire began around 10 a.m. on Fourmile Canyon Road near Emerson Gulch, according to Boulder County Emergency Management. It is not clear how it started. It is being called the Fourmile Canyon Fire.

Cmdr. Rick Brough with Boulder County Emergency Management says at least three structures have burned, but it is unclear if those structures were houses or outbuildings. He says some homes were destroyed, but did not have a number on how many. A fire truck was also consumed by the flames.
At least 200 homes have been evacuated and are still in danger. Many evacuations cover the Gold Hill area.

There are no reports of any injuries from the fire.

The fire is moving northeast toward Highway 36 and also growing to the west.

The general boundaries of the evacuation areas are the Peak to Peak Highway to the west, Left Hand Canyon to the north, Highway 36 to the east and Boulder Canyon to the south.

Evacuations were issued for the Gold Hill area, and at least a 4-mile radius around that area. The Mountain Meadows and Mountain Pines communities were also evacuated. Boulder Heights and Pinebrook Hills subdivisions are also now on mandatory evacuations.

About 2,500 messages have been sent to residents in the area, telling them they have to evacuate or they should be prepared to leave.

Evacuation centers have been set up at the North Boulder Recreation Center, the Nederland Community Center and the Coors Event Center on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder. New Vista High School has been closed as a shelter. The Boulder County Fairgrounds is set up to accept large animals that were evacuated and the Longmont Humane Society is also taking in some animals.

Authorities say it has been a struggle to transport water up to the area.

Because the fire is moving so fast, authorities say it has been hard for firefighters to get ahead of the fire and create breaks. About 100 firefighters are in the field battling the fire. They are working in rugged and steep terrain and are trying to protect structures. They are clearing out about 30 yards around any structures to try and keep the flames away from them.

Firefighters already plan to stay overnight to fight the fire.

Two larger planes, one from Grand Junction and the other from Rapid City, have come to Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield to help with firefighting efforts. They were grounded until just after 5 p.m. because of high winds, but those winds are calming and are expected to die down completely overnight. Four more aircraft are headed in from Boise, Idaho to help with efforts on Tuesday.

Both directions of Highway 119 are closed from Boulder to Nederland due to the wildfire. Fourmile Canyon Road and Sunshine Canyon are also closed. Many roads in the area are shut down due to the fire.

A total of 35 different agencies have responded to the fire.

The smoke from the fire is easily visible from Denver and people in Boulder say ash has fallen on their homes.

Earlier on Monday, winds were from the north-northwest at 15 to 35 mph with gusts to 45 mph, according to the 9NEWS Weather Team.

There were reports of two other smaller structure fires, one of them in Eldora, but those fires were contained.

For more information, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management is updating its website:

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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