By Jesse Sarles

(CBS4) – Most of Colorado’s large wildfires of 2020 have burned in the high country and relatively far away from the Denver metro area. That all changed on Saturday when the CalWood Fire broke out midday Saturday and burned more than 7,000 acres in Boulder County. The smoke plume could be seen from dozens of miles away, and it forced evacuations of the foothills town of Jamestown and pre-evacuation warnings for other areas including some parts of Lyons. Approximately 900 homes are affected by the evacuation order.

CalWood Fire seen from the Boulder Overlook (credit: CBS)

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The pillar of smoke and flames burst out in an area near the Cal-Wood Education Center, south of Highway 7 (also known as South St. Vrain Drive) and northeast of Bald Mountain. The tremendous tower of smoke could be clearly seen from the city of Boulder and it moved east in heavy winds in the afternoon, causing a frightening scene. After dark, flames could be seen on the mountainside.

After 8 p.m. Boulder County emergency managers said the fire was determined to be 7,064 acres in size, a jaw-dropping figure for a wildfire on its first day of activity. Strong winds and exceptionally dry conditions are running rampant across Colorado.

The fire burned some structures, according to authorities, although it’s not clear how many.

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There are several major traffic impacts from the fire. North Foothills Highway (Highway 36) from Boulder to Lyons will be closed until at least Sunday morning, “including access off all feeder roads.” Highway 7 is also closed from the west end of Lyons and the Peak-to-Peak Highway (Highway 72).

CalWood Fire

(credit: Boulder OEM)

Aside from the evacuation of Jamestown, residents of Lyons were told they should be prepared to evacuate if the fire behavior changes on Sunday. Boulder County officials said that included Apple Valley Road residents up to Highway 36.

Jamestown was one of several Front Range mountain communities that had to be evacuated in September 2013 when devastating flooding caused heavy damage.

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Follow the Boulder Office of Emergency Management at or on Twitter for up-to-date information about the fire.

Jesse Sarles