Two wildfires in Boulder County threatened the homes of at least 1,700 people Friday, prompting evacuations in the city of Boulder and the neighboring foothills.
Three subdivisions in the foothills were evacuated Friday morning shortly after the wildfires were first reported, and authorities issued emergency phone calls to 181 numbers. Officials later ordered evacuations for a portion of Boulder's west side, where about 1,700 people live. Two medical buildings and the municipal courthouse were also evacuated.
A city evacuation alert to his cell phone was enough to send 49-year-old engineer Joe Paulson back to his two-story house in the evacuation area. He threw papers and photos in a suitcase while friends helped remove his five bicycles.
"I just started grabbing stuff and flinging it," Paulson said. "I'll wait to panic later."
Third-grade teacher Kalan Orobona, 28, raced home after getting a call from his brother at school. His wife had already left with their dog, but Orobona stayed behind to rake leaves away from the house.
"I had to leave the kids behind for the Halloween party," said Orobona, who said a student teacher took over his class.
An air tanker buzzed over the neighborhood as Orobona raked leaves in his flip-flops and officers went door to door as neighbors packed up their cars.
The fires, burning on about 20 acres on public open space, are closer to the city than the wildfire that destroyed more than 160 houses in the foothills last month. That fire was the most destructive in Colorado history in terms of property damage.
Firefighters working to contain the blaze
Besides the single-engine air tanker dropping fire retardant, about 60 firefighters were trying to contain Friday's blaze. Boulder County sheriff's Cmdr. Rick Brough said officials were asking for additional resources.
Fire officials said the blaze isn't as dangerous as the September wildfire that burned 10 square miles, because the winds were calmer Friday.
"A lot's going to depend on the weather at this point," Brough said. There were no immediate reports of power outages, injuries or damage to buildings, he said.
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the area until 6 p.m., meaning critical fire conditions exist. The weather service said wind gusts of up to 40 mph were possible.
(Associated Press writers Ivan Moreno and Kristen Wyatt in Denver contributed to this report.)
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