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Wind-driven wildfire in Colorado forces evacuations, winds drop significantly

by Sam Tabachnik, Denver Post |

A 16-acre, wind-blown wildfire in Sunshine Canyon forced nearly a thousand evacuations in Colorado’s Boulder County foothills Monday and briefly prompted warnings that thousands more within Boulder’s western city limits should be ready to flee.

The fire, which started within a structure in the 2900 block of Sunshine Canyon Drive, spread to nearby wildland, according to emergency radio traffic. That prompted mandatory evacuations for roughly 937 people across 346 homes in Pine Brook Hills and the area west of Foothills Community Park.

An evacuation warning also was issued Monday afternoon to the area of west Boulder between Linden Avenue and University Avenue, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management announced on Twitter. That evacuation warning was lifted around 5 p.m., Boulder Fire Rescue said, citing limited fire spread and improving weather conditions.

Gusts up to 40 mph were recorded as the fire spread, though winds have decreased significantly since then and should continue to drop throughout the evening, said Victoria Chavez, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder.

Sustained winds are now between 10 mph and 20 mph, she said, with some 25 mph gusts.

That’s a far cry from the conditions that helped fuel the devastating Marshall Fire nearly one year ago in Boulder County. That wildfire, which destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Superior, Louisvillle and unincorporated portions of the county Dec. 30, was pushed by wind gusts of 70 mph to 100 mph, according to the weather service.