From: Catherine Tsai, Associated Press
Published July 11, 2005 12:00 AM

Hot, Windy Weather Hampers Firefighters in Colorado and South Dakota

WETMORE, Colo. — Gusty wind and temperatures heading into the 90s prompted authorities to evacuate about 70 more homes Sunday east of a 2,900-acre wildfire in southern Colorado.


"The fire has got the advantage right now," said fire incident commander Marc Mullenix.


Officials had already evacuated 150 homes since the fire was reported Wednesday.


Black smoke billowed over the mountains Sunday as residents evacuated from the west side of the fire were given four hours to check their homes. Firefighters, meanwhile, hoped to burn vegetation around a ranch in fire path's. The fire was spreading in an area about 25 miles west of Pueblo.


Sam Smith, 72, had a checklist of things he wanted to do at his house: grab his wife's billfold, close the windows, get clean socks, water the flowers and check the refrigerator.


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"I am not worried about the house. It's insured," he said. "I can build another."


Elsewhere, fire crews in South Dakota got help Sunday from a tanker airplane as they battled a 3,500-acre blaze that had destroyed one home in the Piedmont area of the Black Hills, northwest of Rapid City.


Residents of part of the community were told to evacuate Saturday, and occupants of three subdivisions were warned Sunday to be prepared to leave, said Nick Fletcher of the Great Plains Interagency Information Center. The temperature hit 106 Saturday at Rapid City and wind gusted to 20 mph.


Lightning was suspected as the cause of both the Colorado and South Dakota blazes.


Thirteen large wildfires were active Sunday in nine states, and had burned more than 688,000 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Since January, wildfires have burned slightly more than 3 million acres, similar to the acreage burned by the same date last year.


Source: Associated Press


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