Boulder wildfire destroys at least 26 homes

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BOULDER | At least 26 homes were destroyed by a wind-whipped wildfire in north-central Colorado that has scorched nearly 14 square miles (36 square kilometers) and forced thousands of residents to flee.

The CalWood Fire started around noon Saturday near the Cal-Wood Education Center, about 17 miles (27 kilometers) northwest of downtown Boulder. Wind gusts of nearly 60 mph (96 kph) fanned the flames Saturday afternoon, but there was “relatively little growth” Sunday, said Mike Wagner, a division chief for the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.

He told The Boulder Daily Camera that after an initial damage assessment, at least 26 homes — and likely more — were destroyed.

More than 1,600 homes and nearly 3,000 people were under evacuation orders Saturday, and many of those orders remained in effect Monday, Boulder County officials said,

About 250 firefighters were working Monday to build containment lines, and aircraft will be used to support their efforts if the weather cooperates. Investigators have not determined what caused the fire, which is 15 percent contained.

The most concerning area of the fire Monday is the difficult, steep and rocky northern ridge terrain, Wagner said.

The blaze is already the largest wildfire in the county’s history, surpassing 2010’s Fourmile Fire, which burned nearly 10 square miles (26 square kilometers) and destroyed 165 homes and four other structures in the mountains west of Boulder.

Meanwhile, a fire that started Sunday on private property about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Boulder grew to half a square mile (1.3 square kilometers) and led to the evacuation of at least 145 homes, including the small town of Ward, which has about 150 residents, Boulder County officials said.

Another blaze, the Cameron Peak fire, which started in mid-August and is burning west of Fort Collins, has grown to 318 square miles (823 square kilometers) and was 62% contained Monday. More than 1,500 firefighters are working the fire, which is the largest in Colorado history.

A spot fire east of the main Cameron Peak fire burned homes overnight Friday and into Saturday, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said in a Facebook post Sunday morning. He said homes were lost in The Retreat in Glen Haven but did not say how many.

The sheriff’s office was assembling several teams to assess the damage and notify homeowners Monday.