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Forest fires devastate Utah houses, prompt Colorado evacuations

DENVER – A fast moving brush fire destroyed eight homes in the Utah tourist town of Moab, while more than 3,000 people in Colorado and Wyoming flee multiple wildfires scorching a drought-stricken AMERICAN West on Wednesday.

The blaze in Moab, known for its impressive red rocks, began in a wooded area Tuesday night and quickly spread to the house about less than a square mile (kilometer), police chief Jim Winder said.

He said that the early research has excluded that there is a natural cause for the fire that was lit in the vicinity of a stream that often is used as a walkway in a largely blue collar neighborhood. It is not near the tourist-heavy areas in the city that is known for its close proximity to Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

Moab resident Shane Tangren told the Salt Lake Tribune that he came home from work Tuesday evening to find flames in the area. He tried to protect the house that he has lived in since he was 16 was wet, but the wind turned and sent the flames rolled right in front of him. He fled.

“I sat there and watched it burn to the ground,” Tangren, 55, told the newspaper. “Everything — photos, birth certificates, memories — it is all gone. My first car was a 1970 (Pontiac) GTO. In the flames. I bought this when I was 15.”

In the mountains of Colorado, the residents are evacuated more than 1,300 houses, flats, apartments and expensive homes in an area known for its ski resorts. Firefighters, with the help of planes, got a quick jump on the fire in the vicinity of Silverthorne after it was reported Tuesday, and have managed to keep the spread of outside of about 91 acres in heavy timber, including trees killed by pine beetles.

In the state of Colorado’s largest fire has burned about 43 square miles (111 square kilometers) for almost two weeks. Residents could go back to about 180 homes is not threatened at the northern edge of the fire Wednesday, but others were more than 1,900 homes.

The blaze, about 13 miles (43 kilometers) north of Durango in the Four Corners region where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet, and which is in the middle of a large swath of exceptional drought. Much of the AMERICAN West is experiencing some level of drought.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, said the quick reaction of the workers has contributed to the prevention of a repetition of the devastating wildfires in 2012 and 2013. Years ago, he said that the fire brigade do not intend to commit resources to fighting any fire, and the launch of a co-ordinated response to a major blaze can last for two days.

Hickenlooper said better co-ordination of cut down on the delays, and the state reimburses local departments for the first reaction of the cost, in an attempt to control a blaze before it can spread.

“We have learned a lot from the disasters, the fires we had in 2012 and 2013,” Hickenlooper told reporters.

Meanwhile, a wildfire in Wyoming, the Medicine Bow National Forest doubled in size more than 24 hours, burning approximately 8 square miles (21 square kilometers). Nearly 400 seasonal and permanent homes are evacuated due to the fire near the Colorado border.

The situation was better in the centre of Washington, where authorities lifted evacuation orders or alerts for approximately 50 residents as crews work to contain a wildfire burning grass and brush.

Officials said one small building was lost, but no injuries reported.

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Whitehurst reported from Salt Lake City. Associated Press writers Bob Moen in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Brian Eason in Denver contributed to this report.

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