By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - A wind-whipped wildfire forced the evacuation of 9,500 homes southeast of Denver on Thursday just as firefighters were gaining the upper hand on a separate blaze that has burned stubbornly for five days west of the city.
Deputy Michelle Rademacher of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said the latest fire has scorched about 1,600 acres in the wooded bluffs near Franktown, Colorado.
"We're not aware of any structures lost, but the high winds are pushing it close to heavily populated neighborhoods, so we called for mandatory evacuations," she said.
The fire grew quickly as sustained winds of 40 miles per hour fanned the flames through dry brush, grasses and trees.
Aerial and ground crews from several agencies were called in to fight the fire.
Television coverage showed firefighters rescuing panicked horses from the many stables that dot the area.
Most of Colorado east of the Continental Divide is at high risk for wildland fires this week because of low humidity, an unusual lack of snow or rainfall and high winds.
Thursday's blaze erupted just as crews were gaining control of the 1,500-acre Indian Gulch fire near Golden, Colorado, that prompted evacuations earlier in the week.
More than 400 firefighters have battled that blaze in the foothills west of Denver from the air and ground, and expect to have it contained by the weekend.
But Rowdy Muir, the federal fire manager at Indian Gulch, said dry conditions and gusty winds have made for an early start to the wildfire season.
"If we don't get moisture this spring, we're going to see a lot of fires in the Rocky Mountain region," Muir told reporters at a Thursday briefing.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Jerry Norton)