Alexa

Wildfire sweeps Colorado as wind picks up

 William Bradshaw, a home owner, hugs his girlfriend Alex Rivera at a briefing on the wildfire burning west of Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday, Sept. 8, ...
 Firefighters wait at the fire camp  west of Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010.   Firefighters encountered a tangle of rattlesnakes, downed ...
 Plans Chief Pete Anderson talks about fighting the wildfire west of Boulder, Colo., during a tour of the fire camp in Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday, S...
 Boulder Sheriff Joe Pelle, left, talks with Incident Commander Todd Richardson, center, and Planning Sectional Chief Dan Eamon at the command center ...
 People gather on an overlook in order to get a view of a wildfire that burns outside of Boulder, Colo. on Wednesday Sept. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/ Matt Mc...
 Sivia Viggiano watches from a friend's home as a helicopter flies in to load up with water at Wonderland Lake in order to work a wildfire outside of ...
 A tanker flies through smoke as a wildfire burns outside of Boulder, Colo. on Wednesday Sept. 8, 2010. Firefighters encountered a tangle of rattlesna...
 Boulder resident, Binx Selby attends a news conference in a parking lot of the Boulder County Justice Center to get information on a wildfire burning...
 A wildfire burns outside of Boulder, Colo. on Wednesday Sept. 8, 2010.  Firefighters encountered a tangle of rattlesnakes, downed power lines and com...
 A helicopter loads up with water at Wonderland Lake to drop on a wildfire outside of Boulder, Colo. on Wednesday Sept. 8, 2010.  (AP Photo/Matt McCla...
 A rainbow extends over the Coors Events Center on the campus of the University of Colorado as the public arrives for a town hall style meeting to add...
 A home and out buildings destroyed by a wildfire are seen in an aerial photo over Boulder, Colo., Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010.  (AP Photo/The Daily Came...
 Craig Hickethier looks at a map on an overlook in order to get a view of a wildfire that burns outside of Boulder, Colo. on Wednesday Sept. 8, 2010. ...
 Ronda Plywaski and other residents affected by a wildfire outside of Boulder, Colo. attend a town hall style meeting at the Coors Events Center on th...
 A home destroyed by a wildfire is shown in an aerial photo over Boulder, Colo., Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/The Daily Camera, Mark Leffingwel...
 A home destroyed by a wildfire is shown in an aerial photo over Boulder, Colo., Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/The Daily Camera, Mark Leffingwel...
 This image provided by NASA shows the wildfire west of Boulder, Colorado, known as the Fourmile Canyon Fire, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging...

Colorado Wildfires

William Bradshaw, a home owner, hugs his girlfriend Alex Rivera at a briefing on the wildfire burning west of Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday, Sept. 8, ...

Colorado Wildfires

Firefighters wait at the fire camp west of Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. Firefighters encountered a tangle of rattlesnakes, downed ...

Colorado Wildfires

Plans Chief Pete Anderson talks about fighting the wildfire west of Boulder, Colo., during a tour of the fire camp in Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday, S...

Colorado Wildfires

Boulder Sheriff Joe Pelle, left, talks with Incident Commander Todd Richardson, center, and Planning Sectional Chief Dan Eamon at the command center ...

Colorado Wildfires

People gather on an overlook in order to get a view of a wildfire that burns outside of Boulder, Colo. on Wednesday Sept. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/ Matt Mc...

Colorado Wildfires

Sivia Viggiano watches from a friend's home as a helicopter flies in to load up with water at Wonderland Lake in order to work a wildfire outside of ...

Colorado Wildfires

A tanker flies through smoke as a wildfire burns outside of Boulder, Colo. on Wednesday Sept. 8, 2010. Firefighters encountered a tangle of rattlesna...

Colorado Wildfires

Boulder resident, Binx Selby attends a news conference in a parking lot of the Boulder County Justice Center to get information on a wildfire burning...

Colorado Wildfires

A wildfire burns outside of Boulder, Colo. on Wednesday Sept. 8, 2010. Firefighters encountered a tangle of rattlesnakes, downed power lines and com...

Colorado Wildfires

A helicopter loads up with water at Wonderland Lake to drop on a wildfire outside of Boulder, Colo. on Wednesday Sept. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Matt McCla...

Colorado Wildfires

A rainbow extends over the Coors Events Center on the campus of the University of Colorado as the public arrives for a town hall style meeting to add...

Colorado Wildfires

A home and out buildings destroyed by a wildfire are seen in an aerial photo over Boulder, Colo., Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/The Daily Came...

Colorado Wildfires

Craig Hickethier looks at a map on an overlook in order to get a view of a wildfire that burns outside of Boulder, Colo. on Wednesday Sept. 8, 2010. ...

Colorado Wildfires

Ronda Plywaski and other residents affected by a wildfire outside of Boulder, Colo. attend a town hall style meeting at the Coors Events Center on th...

APTOPIX Colorado Wildfires

A home destroyed by a wildfire is shown in an aerial photo over Boulder, Colo., Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/The Daily Camera, Mark Leffingwel...

APTOPIX Colorado Wildfires

A home destroyed by a wildfire is shown in an aerial photo over Boulder, Colo., Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/The Daily Camera, Mark Leffingwel...

Colorado Wildfires

This image provided by NASA shows the wildfire west of Boulder, Colorado, known as the Fourmile Canyon Fire, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging...

Neighborhoods once filled with million-dollar homes and scenic mountain cabins have become piles of smoking rubble. On one lot, all that survived was a tennis court. On others, all that's left are crumbling, ash-covered foundations.
They were among the nearly 170 homes destroyed by a Colorado wildfire that showed no signs of relenting Thursday as wind gusts of up to 60 mph (96 kph) threatened to send the flames into the heart of Boulder.
Authorities told residents on the west side of Boulder to be prepared to evacuate if the wildfire moves into town, urging people to remove lawn furniture, brush and propane tanks that could fuel the fire. The city is also mowing grass in open spaces to cut down on potential fuel, and telling residents to do the same.
Boulder is a city of about 100,000 people that is home to the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal laboratory best known for running the atomic clock that's used to maintain the official U.S. time. Employees there were allowed to leave work if they needed to go home to prepare of a possible evacuation, said spokesman James Burrus.
The frantic preparations in Boulder show the ferocity of the wildfire since it broke out Monday and spread to a 10-square-mile (16-square-kilometer) area. It has since destroyed more homes than any other blaze in Colorado's history.
About 3,500 people have been out of their homes for four days, and some residents have been frustrated with a lack of information about what was happening behind fire lines or because they couldn't do more to help. Some have gotten around roadblocks by hiking and biking in to check on their homes, and an unknown number of people who got back into homes decided to stay and hunker down.
Authorities are investigating whether a vehicle crashing into a propane tank started the fire.
Houses in the area range from million-dollar sprawling homes with tennis courts and swimming pools to more modest ranch-style homes with wooden decks, some of which survived another fire in 1989. Homes are nestled on ridges and steep mountains, with winding roads leading to some of the homes.
The area also includes the historic town of Gold Hill, home to an Old West grocery store and structures once used for stagecoach stops. Crews managed to spare it from the fire.
Fire managers said as many 700 firefighters and support personnel and seven air tankers were assigned to fight the fire, considered America's top firefighting priority.