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Colorado wildfires burn hundreds of homes, force evacuations in two towns

Christian Fernsby |
An estimated 580 homes, a hotel and a shopping center have burned and tens of thousands of people were evacuated in wildfires outside Denver, Oregon.

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At least one first responder and six others were injured, though Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle acknowledged there could be more injuries and deaths could be possible due to the intensity of fires that quickly swept across the region as winds gusted up to 105 mph (169 kph).

The first fire erupted just before 10:30 a.m. and was “attacked pretty quickly and laid down later in the day and is currently being monitored” with no structures lost, Pelle said.

A second wildfire, reported just after 11 a.m., “ballooned and spread rapidly east,” Pelle said.

The blaze spans 2.5 square miles (6.5 square kilometers) and has engulfed parts of the area in smoky, orangish skies and sent residents scrambling to get to safety. The activity of the fires, which are burning unusually late into the winter season, will depend on how the winds behave overnight and could determine when crews are able to go in and begin assessing the damage and searching for any victims.

Evacuations have been ordered for the city of Louisville, home to about 21,000 people, and Superior, which has another 13,000 residents.

The neighboring towns are roughly 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Denver in an area filled with subdivisions surrounded by shopping centers, parks and schools. The area is in between Denver and Boulder, a foothills college town home to the University of Colorado.

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