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1 Dead, Homes Destroyed As Lower North Fork Fire Grows To 3,000 Acres

DENVER (CBS4/AP) – Wildfires sprung up all over Colorado on Monday with a major wildfire forcing evacuations and destroying homes. Late Monday night it was reported a person has been found dead.

The Lower North Fork Fire is burning in Jefferson County. As of 9 p.m. the fire was estimated at over 3,000 acres and growing. It’s burning near West Platte River Road and Foxton Road. North Fork & Elk Creek Fire is on the scene as well as several other fire agencies.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department reported the death late Monday. The victim hasn’t been identified and investigators haven’t said how the person died.

A reverse 911 call has been sent out to over 900 homes for mandatory evacuation. Residents are being told to go to Conifer and Chatfield high schools. Large animals can be brought to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds and pets can be brought along to the shelters. The Red Cross said it was preparing to send cots and blankets.

The Associated Press reported that Jefferson County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacki Kelley says authorities don’t know how many houses were lost but says it’s at least five and probably more than 10.

Most of Foxton Road has been closed from Highway 285 south to County Line Road.

PHOTO GALLERY: Lower North Fork Fire

“This fire is up into the trees and the winds are pretty wicked … it grew from literally 15 to 20 acres to 100, and it’s much more than that at this point. We’re just not sure where it’s at,” Kelley said.

Jan Quigley said she and her husband were “just in a dither” after they got an automated phone call telling them to evacuate. They grabbed clothes, a backup computer drive and tax records and left.

“I’m hopeful it will be OK,” she said.

The National Weather Service said sustained winds of up to 40 mph hit the fire area with gusts up to 55 mph, but they began to die down after sunset.

“But it’s so dry out there now that even a 15- to 20-mph wind is going to spread the fire,” said weather service meteorologist Bob Kleyla.

Billows of smoke were visible from downtown Denver. Kleyla said weather radar showed the smoke plume had drifted about 100 miles to the northeast by nightfall, and state health officials warned smoke could linger and affect air quality until Tuesday afternoon.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., offered condolences to families whose homes were destroyed and said he will work to get federal firefighting teams and equipment if Jefferson County Sheriff Ted Mink requests them.

Foothills Fire & Rescue was called to a grass fire on Grapevine Road near Sawmill Gulch Road. Heavy flames and heavy fuels were reported and officials said just after 8:30 p.m. the fire had grown to about 30 to 50 acres. Several structures in the area were threatened and Kelley says the fire is out of control. Two home were requested to evacuate though one of the occupants decided not to evacuate.

“There has been some difficulty getting water on the Sawmill Fire due to the rugged and rocky terrain,” an official said on Twitter.

Evergreen Fire responded to a small fire near U.S. 40 in the Lookout Mountain Area. Firefighters said they got the fire under control.

Montezuma Road in Summit County had to be closed just after noon due to a wildland fire. Just after 6:30 p.m. officials reported the fire to be about five acres. The blaze started with a tree fell upon a power line. Two homes had to be evacuated. Wildland fire crews from Kremmling and Vail and the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Unit were responding to the fire.

Representatives from Lake Dillon Fire Rescue, Copper Mountain Fire, Red White and Blue Fire Rescue, the US Forest Service, High Country Training Center, Summit County Ambulance, Keystone Emergency Services and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office were also on scene.

Another wildfire was also burning in Larimer County west of Loveland in the 1700 block of Palisade Mountain Drive near Storm Mountain. It was reported to be about three acres and quickly growing. Loveland Fire, the U.S. Forest Service and Larimer County Emergency Services were responding.

Up to a dozen smaller fires were reported from the northeast Colorado plains to the southern part of the state.

wildfires map 1 Dead, Homes Destroyed As Lower North Fork Fire Grows To 3,000 Acres

(credit: CBS)

Xcel Energy has reported several outages due to strong winds. There are 1,100 customers without power along Baseline from 28th to Foothills. Another 1,700 customers are without power near Center and 6th Avenue in Denver.

Wildfire Resources

– Visit’s Wildfire Resources section.

– Read recent Wildfire stories.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

– See images from the most destructive wildfire (Fourmile Fire) and largest wildfire (Hayman Fire) in Colorado history.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Mary Hagin

    does the mandatory evacuation include Indian Hills? We live there and csnnot get any information about thid-HELP!!

    • pam

      this fire is far away from indian hills right now. do you know where the high line road is? this is not even to aspen park, let alone indian hills. has not even reached 285 at foxton or pleasant park road.

      • bob

        Maybe not yet but the point is it’s blowing that way and the fire is uncontrolled right now.

  • Alexander Wood

    This fire near Conifer is sure close I hope the fire Debt takes control of the fire.

  • pam

    it makes me very mad that this was caused by a control burn. do we really need control burns? we should not be messing around with fire. seems like every year a control burn gets out of control. this spring has been full of high winds, so no one knows when a spark will reignite a fire.

    • brian robbins

      controlled burns are necessary it assists mother nature with getting rid of the undergrowth that can make much larger fires or we could just not fight any fire and let mother nature take her course every forest has a burn cycle and some are supprisingly short like every 30 to 40 years

      • C

        Yes, I agree that they are necessary, however, to do a controlled burn knowing the high wind warnings that were predicted is absolute insanity. Not to mention how dry it has been all of March and how no precipitation is in the forecast. Now that is complete nonsense!

  • Jamie O'Brien

    I was a firefighter for years and yes prescribe burns are very important to our forest. This is done for many beneficial reasons including:
    Reducing fuel build-up Dead wood, overcrowded, unhealthy trees, and thick
    layers of pine needles can all contribute to catastrophic wildfires.
    Creates diversity needed by wildlife, Helps certain plants/trees germinate
    So there are many benefits and reasons to do this.
    I am sorry to hear homes have been destroyed and my thoughts and prayers are with all who have been affected by this fire, and all our Brave Emergency responders who are risking their lives to contain this fire.

  • peter herrold

    Controlled burns when it’s tinderbox dry and very windy? Sounds like a crime to me. How clueless can someone be?

  • the punnisher

    Does the Fire Dept that did the (un)controlled burn have to pay for the property damage THEY caused?…Or like with cops, do they get immunity from paying for the damage?

  • Dexter the cat

    I am very sorry for the loss of property and very thankful that so far there has been no loss of life or significant injuries. To clarify many of the above comments, the controlled Burn was last week when there were no winds. What is believed to have happened is that there were likely still some hot spots in most likely a stump or other dense debris that when these high winds kicked up were blown into un-burned vegetation and started this monster. So the the teams that worked on the planned burn last week did it when there were no winds an none in the forecast and thus did it as they were supposed to.

  • Boan

    I realize it wasn’t intentional, but an ad for a truck that talks about how “few fires burn hotter…” than our truck, before a news spot on a death from a fire? Tasteless. Maybe skip the ads on the sensitive and informational news clips, guys

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