Colorado wildfire destroys homes, prompts town's evacuation

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 18, 2012 9:38 PM
Colorado wildfire destroys homes, prompts town's evacuation

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A mile-wide, wind-stoked wildfire destroyed two homes in rural northeastern Colorado on Sunday, injuring three firefighters battling the blaze and leading authorities to issue an evacuation order for a farming town.

More than 500 residents of Eckley, about 170 miles northeast of Denver, have been "strongly urged" to evacuate to two emergency shelters in neighboring towns, said Anna Baucke, spokeswoman for Yuma County.

It was not immediately clear how many residents followed the notice to evacuate.

Two farmhouses have been destroyed, and flames are threatening other structures, Baucke said, adding that three firefighters sustained injuries while attempting to contain the blaze.

The extent of their injuries was not immediately clear.

The cause of the fire, which is burning through a 14-mile stretch of dry grassland, is unknown, Baucke said.

Thick smoke and swirling dust from high winds closed roads in the area, and made assessing the fire's exact size difficult, she said.

Most of eastern Colorado is under a high wind warning until late Sunday night, the National Weather Service said on its website. Sustained winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour, with gusts up to 60 mph are raking the state's high plains.

The winds buffeting Colorado blew into the state ahead of a Pacific cold front forecast to drop between one and two feet of snow in the western Colorado mountains, the weather service said.

The winds also kicked up dust in the greater Denver area, prompting the state health department to warn people with breathing problems to stay indoors and avoid exertion.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Paul Thomasch)