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Crews battle wildfire near Colorado college town

  • Crew the battle of the Sun Fire in the Sunshine canyon area of Boulder, Colo. on Sunday 19 March 2017. The small wildfire of people being forced out of their homes early Sunday, and ignited dead trees that exploded into black plumes of smoke, authorities and residents said. (Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera via AP)

    (Associated Press)

  • Smoke rises from a wildfire Sunday, 19 March 2017, in Boulder, Colo. Authorities say that the small wildfire burning in the mountains forced people out of their homes and filling the air with smoke. (Seth Frankel, via AP)

    (Associated Press)

  • Anne Slichter prepares to evacuate her home in the neighborhood of the Sun Fire near Boulder Canyon west of Boulder, Colo., on Sunday 19 March 2017. The fire forced people from their homes early Sunday, and ignited dead trees that exploded into black plumes of smoke, authorities and residents said. (Paul Aiken/Daily Camera via AP)

    (Associated Press)

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BOULDER, Colo. – Firefighters were able to contain about half of a small, but potentially dangerous wildfire just west of downtown Boulder, Colorado, that forced hundreds of flights to and from the thick plumes of black smoke.

Boulder County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Mike Wagner said that the fire may be caused by man, and that hikers and transient campers frequent the area where it erupted — a forested, mountainous place a few miles from Pearl Street, the shopping and dining hub in the heart of the city. Officials ruled out any lightning strikes or downed power lines, Wagner said.

The fire started in the Sunshine Canyon area, which is dotted with expensive houses and rustic mountain residences. Dead trees exploded and sent black smoke skyward.

Residents of 426 homes under the mandatory evacuation orders, spent the night with friends and family or the Red Cross shelter the town. A decision on the question of whether some, perhaps, would not have to wait until later Monday, according to the Boulder Office of Emergency Management.

No structures were damaged by the 62-acre fire, but the crews were spending the night aimed at the protection of dwellings and the supervision of the blaze’s perimeter. Officials worry that a stronger wind can fan the flames overnight, and the residents of 836 homes had to be ready to leave if conditions worsened.

“It is always worrying and always on your mind, but it is not an uncommon feeling around here,” said Seth Frankel, whose neighbor told him early Sunday about the fire at less than a half mile from his house.

Frankel and his wife, a Boulder native, and their three daughters have dealt with fires and floods. In 2010, a forest fire destroyed nearly 200 homes in the area to the west of the city, the home of the University of Colorado, Boulder.

On Sunday, about 250 firefighters from agencies as far away as Colorado Springs fought the blaze, supported by water dropping helicopters and planes dropping flame-red sheets of fire retardant. Wagner said that the air presence would likely be reduced on Monday, ground forces focus on and around the roll up the blaze.

Conditions are tinder-dry in many parts of Colorado, the eastern foothills of the Rocky mountains and the Eastern Plains, and the municipalities imposed fire prohibited ground of what is known as “the red flag” warnings.

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