Families Flee Wind-Whipped Colorado Wildfire

LAPORTE, Colo. (AP) -- Scores of families fled a wind-whipped wildfire Thursday as it crept toward homes in the northern Colorado foothills.

The evacuation was voluntary and no homes were burned. Officials said the fire was being pushed by wind gusting to 35 mph. It nearly doubled in size Thursday to 3,500 acres.

Sheriff Jim Alderden said flames had drawn within a quarter-mile of some homes by Thursday evening. Air tankers were credited with keeping flames away from homes, but fire managers said they had no firm containment lines around the blaze.

``As long as we had our kids, that's all that mattered,'' said Andy Martinez, 38, who fled with his wife, two children and pet dog. ``It's kind of surreal. You wish it wasn't happening to you.''

It was unclear how many people live in the development 70 miles northwest of Denver, but authorities said the evacuation warning covered 140 homes in two subdivisions.

As a smoky haze settled over nearby Fort Collins, shelters were set up at a church and junior high school for evacuees. The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved federal aid to help fight the fire.

The blaze, which began Tuesday when a residential yard fire got out of control, could become more dangerous with an approaching storm front late Thursday, officials said.

The fire is an ominous sign of what could be a long fire season. Colorado, like much of the West, remains in a drought with little sign of relief.

In central Arizona, a 3,800-acre wildfire was 75 percent contained; full containment was expected Friday evening. The fire, first spotted Monday, was not immediately threatening any homes.

Southwest of Phoenix, a 5,700-acre wildfire burning in the Gila River basin was contained by Thursday night. No homes or communities were threatened.