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Fires continue to threaten Colorado ski resorts

DENVER — Hundreds of people spent another night away from their homes as firefighters kept a close eye on a wildfire near Colorado’s Breckenridge Ski Resort and the nearby historic town.

The fire, which was reported by a mountain biker Wednesday morning, has scorched less than a quarter of a square mile , but has forced the evacuation of nearly 500 homes, many of which are pricey ski properties. No homes have burned, and investigators do not know what sparked the blaze.

“We’re re-evaluating and evaluating our evacuation decisions,” Summit County Undersheriff Joel Cochran said at a community meeting Thursday night. “This is not an easy decision. This is a complicated fire.”

Crews spent Thursday dropping slurry from the air and building containment lines on the ground about 2 miles north of the resort to prevent the fire from reaching a large subdivision. Insurance companies also paid to send contracted fire engines to the area to try to protect the homes.

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The evacuees, including vacationers, were briefly allowed back to their homes to pick up items they were not able to grab before being told to leave as the fire blew up. The relatively small blaze quickly sent up a column of smoke visible from Interstate 70, Colorado’s main east-west highway, and the 19th-century Victorian buildings in the town of Breckenridge, a onetime gold-mining camp.

Residents and tourists in town have been warned to be ready to leave in case the fire spreads toward it. The base of the resort, which includes hotels, restaurants and businesses, was not evacuated.

Nebraska resident Sheila Calhorn was among those who had their vacations interrupted by the fire near the Colorado Trail, a nearly 500-mile (805-kilometer) hiking and biking route through the state’s mountains.

“We were down in Breckenridge and we looked outside, and people were all staring into the sky and you could see smoke just billowing up,” she told the Summit Daily News in Frisco.

“This was supposed to be a stress-relieving vacation,” she said.

The fire, consuming beetle-killed trees in the White River National Forest, is one of several burning in Colorado and elsewhere around the West.

In northern Nevada, a fire official blamed a wind shift for pushing a wildfire across at least one rural homestead property.

Truckee Meadows Fire Chief Charles Moore said Thursday that a team of firefighters narrowly escaped, but no injuries were reported when flames reversed Wednesday afternoon and headed toward homes in the Palomino Valley north of Reno.

Ken and Sue McGuire told KRNV-TV in Reno that they lost a house, a travel trailer where their son lived, sheds and vehicles as flames swept across their property.

About 500 people heeded an advisory to evacuate ahead of the nearly 5.5 square mile (14.3 square kilometer) blaze burning through grass and brush.

A wildfire burning in steep terrain forced the closure of a popular viewing spot at the top of a mountain range bordering New Mexico’s most populous city on Thursday.

Law enforcement officers blocked off the state road that leads to Sandia Crest and have evacuated the Sandia Crest viewing area due to the fire, which was reported Thursday morning.

The Sandia Crest Trail north of the Crest House also is closed.

The smoke could be seen from Albuquerque and the surrounding area. No structures were threatened.

Officials in north-central Montana ordered about 30 residents to leave Thursday after winds shifted and a wildfire moved to within a mile of the historic mining town of Landusky.

Meanwhile, firefighters continued to protect cabins threatened by a rapidly growing wildfire in southeast Wyoming. The fire near Rob Roy Reservoir in Medicine Bow National Forest has more than tripled in size since Wednesday morning, reaching about 2 square miles Thursday.

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