A small wildfire in the mountains just outside downtown Boulder, Colorado, forced people from their homes on March 19 and ignited dead trees that exploded into black plumes of smoke, authorities and residents said.
Wind was pushing the flames in the wooded area a couple of miles west of Pearl Street, the shopping and dining heart of the university city’s downtown. Crews made some progress by partially containing the fire that had burned just over 60 acres, but officials worried that stronger gusts expected later in the day could fan the flames.
Authorities made more than 1,000 calls to residents ordering them to evacuate and warned an additional 2,200 to get ready to leave if conditions worsened, said Gabi Boerkircher of the Boulder Office of Emergency Management.
It wasn’t clear exactly how many houses or residents were evacuated because the calls could have gone to multiple people living in the same home and likely didn’t include children.
There were no reports of injuries or damage to homes, emergency officials said. Several aircraft were making drops to battle the flames, and a community center has opened as an evacuation shelter.
Officials were not sure how the fire started in the Sunshine Canyon area dotted with a mixture of expensive homes and rustic mountain residences.
Seth Frankel, who was warned that he and his family may need to evacuate, said he had packed up “generations of things” that can’t be replaced and was ready to go if the air quality got worse.
He said smoke was pouring toward neighborhoods and many dead trees were combusting and sending black smoke into the air less than a half-mile from his home. But he and his wife, a Boulder native, and three daughters have dealt with fires and floods before.
“It’s always alarming and always on your mind, but it’s not an uncommon sensation around here,” said Frankel, who has lived in Boulder for 20 years.
In 2010, a wildfire destroyed nearly 200 homes in the mountainous area west of the city, home to the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Frankel got word of the fire early Sunday from a neighbor who received a warning call and was outside with neighbors watching the flames and smoke. But he let his daughters, 9, 11 and 13, sleep in.
“It’s still alarming, but there’s no panic,” Frankel said. “We will be long since gone when parents are no longer smiling.”
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