A wild­fire out­side Boul­der, Colo., has forced hun­dreds of res­i­dents to evac­u­ate.

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CAROLYN Y. JOHN­SON

A wild­fire burn­ing just out­side Boul­der, Colo., has caused hun­dreds of res­i­dents to flee and has put more than 800 homes on no­tice that they might have to leave next as au­thor­i­ties bat­tle the fire amid drought con­di­tions.

There were no re­ports of sig­nif­i­cant prop­erty dam­age or in­juries caused by the fire near Sun­shine Canyon, west of the city, said Gabi Bo­erkircher, a spokes­woman for the Boul­der Of­fice of Emer­gency Man­age­ment.

As of late Sun­day, the fire — which had spread to a lit­tle more than 60 acres — was about 50 per­cent con­tained. The tem­per­a­ture Sun­day had been fore­cast to reach a high of 76 de­grees, with pos­si­ble high winds in the af­ter­noon.

“Not a great day to be fight­ing a fire, that’s for sure,” Bo­erkircher said. She said that more than 400 homes had re­ceived an order to evac­u­ate and that 836 more had been put on no­tice to be ready to go if con­di­tions were to worsen.

Evacuation calls to res­i­dents went out through the re­verse 911 sys­tem in the mid­dle of the night. Sam and Coila Maphis slept through their 2 a.m. call — a pre-evacuation no­tice telling them to get ready to go — but were roused when a neigh­bor be­gan bang­ing on their back win­dow at 4:30 a.m. They packed fi­nan­cial doc­u­ments, pass­ports and a jew­elry box into their car and waited. In the dark pre-dawn hours, they could clearly see the fire burn­ing; they said it looked like a sun­set sit­ting on top of a dark ridge.

“It was very, very vivid. You could re­ally see the crim­son, or­ange and red. And then it came over the ridge, started to walk down the hill,” said Sam Maphis, a re­tired en­gi­neer. “That’s when we started to get wor­ried.”

Re­spon­ders to the fire in­cluded eight air­craft that dropped a fire re­tar­dant called “slurry” on the area, ac­cord­ing to the Boul­der Of­fice of Emer­gency Man­age­ment. The cause of the fire is not yet known, Bo­erkircher said.

East­ern Colorado has been in a drought for the past three to four weeks. March is nor­mally the snowiest month, with an av­er­age of more than 11 inches of snow in Den­ver. But more than half­way through the month, the area has got­ten no snow and just 0.02 inches of rain, ac­cord­ing to Natalie Sullivan, a me­te­o­rol­o­gist with the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice in Boul­der.

“This is very ab­nor­mal,” Sullivan said. “We’ve had dry con­di­tions, low rel­a­tive hu­midi­ties, high winds, and all of those put to­gether means that if a fire were to start, there’s a chance it could spread very rapidly.”


TOP: Smoke rises from a fire sparked Sun­day in Sun­shine Canyon, east of Boul­der, Colo. ABOVE: Anne Slichter packs to leave her house near the canyon. Hun­dreds of res­i­dents have al­ready been dis­placed, with more than 800 homes on of­fi­cial warn­ing.

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