A wildfire south of Boulder, Colorado that has forced nearly 20,000 people to flee was 21% listed and most evacuations had been lifted by Sunday morning, Boulder Fire-Rescue officials said .
The fire, which started on Saturday, burned within 914 yards of homes on the west end of Boulder, said Mike Smith, incident commander.
A fast initial attack “combined with all the fuel mitigation treatments we’ve done in this area is one of the reasons we’ve been so successful,” Smith said Sunday.
Fire crews were also able to use aircraft to fight the blaze, laying down lines of fire retardant near homes in the hills south of the college town, he said.
The evacuation zone was reduced late Saturday to cover around 1,700 people and 700 residences, down from around 8,000 homes earlier in the day. Fire officials will allow more people to return home on Sunday as it becomes safe, officials said.
Sunday’s work was to reinforce the line of fire and ensure the fire did not burn towards the city of Boulder or towards Eldorado Canyon, Smith said. Crews were working to surround the fire in an area of rocks and snow.
The blaze scorched around 81 hectares of dormant trees and dry grasses not far from where a late December blaze, driven by high winds, scorched more than 24 square kilometers and destroyed around 1,100 homes.
Fire crews are concerned about the upcoming fire season, Smith said.
“I think it’s just a sign of how things are going to go,” he said. “We continue to work on our planning processes. We continue to work on building the team and working with our partners to ensure that we are as composed [in] as we can be. We feel good, but we are a bit nervous about the upcoming season.”
Saturday’s fire began around 2 p.m. and burned protected wilderness land near the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder police said. Authorities have called it the NCAR fire and its cause is not yet known, although officials have found where it may have started, Smith said.