Colorado Blaze Burns 300 Acres

LAKEWOOD, Colo. --

Rain showers and shifting winds helped firefighters finally contain a large grass fire that burned on the east and north sides of Green Mountain.

The fire was considered 100 percent contained around 9 p.m. Monday, said West Metro Fire spokeswoman Michelle French.

No homes were burned and no one has been injured in the fire, she said. Evacuations were lifted at 7 p.m.

Residents on the northeast side of Green Mountain anxiously watched fire fighters use a back burn technique to blacken fuels in the ground and stop the fire.

Thirty-foot-high flames were seen nipping within feet of back yards.

"With the ashes coming down, it's not a good thing," said Jeff Sibel as he used his garden hose to wet the outside of his home.

Chris Losacco, a resident in the neighborhood quickly gathered up a dog and pet bird from his home.

"It's pretty bad," Losacco said, not knowing at the time how close the flames would get.

The fire started small at about 12:30 p.m. but exploded three hours later -- creeping closer to large homes that ring the mountain. At first, a dozen homes were evacuated, but as wind gusts whipped up flames and the fire grew erratic and out of control, firefighters planned for additional evacuations, but weren't ordered, French said.

The homes were located east of Interstate 70, south of 6th Avenue, north of Green Mountain and west of Red Rocks Community College (Indiana Street).

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office also blocked the entrance to 6th Avenue Estates and shut down the Indiana exit off 6th Avenue. Residents were told to avoid the area, if possible.

Some families were ordered to go to a shelter at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds but many homeowners grabbed their garden hoses and stood their ground, trying to protect their property.

A reverse-911 call went out to about 300 homes in the area when the fire grew out of control.

Residents reported hearing and seeing lightning hit the area at about 1 p.m. About a half hour later large plumes of smoke could be seen from throughout the metro area. By 2:30 p.m. the fire grew to about 50 acres and then appeared to burn back on itself, as the winds shifted south.

However, an hour later, the winds shifted again and the fire exploded to more than 300 acres, with flames racing within feet of a dozen homes, said AirTracker 7 Reporter Jayson Luber. Homes on Maple Drive, Maple Avenue, Bayaud McIntyre Way and Kilmer Street were particularly at risk, firefighters said.

"We are fighting erratic winds, extreme fire behavior, and very dry conditions," said Jacki Kelley, with Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

At least 100 firefighters with West Metro Fire and other nearby departments attacked the blaze along the fire line, which stretches several miles. Air support was requested early on but aerial assistance was delayed by swirling, shifting winds.

"Swirling winds really hampered our firefighters. Winds were shifting so rapidly throughout the day, making it very dangerous for firefighters and for air support," French said.

A small fixed-wing plane with fire retardant and a chopper with a load of water began flying over the area at about 5:45 p.m.

Even then, the wind was no help. During one drop, slurry landed on a home and a sheriff's department car, but not on the fire line.

Homeowners praised firefighters who came to the rescue as flames inched closer to fence lines separating homes from open space. Firefighters doused the flames with water and lit back burns within yards of some homes.

"Our firefighters have done a fantastic job protecting structures," French said.

The fire burned in a northerly and easterly direction, toward 6th Avenue Estates. One home had damage to its siding and several others had their wooden fences burned.

The Jefferson County Fairgrounds is on the north side of Green Mountain, which is located on the southwest corner of the Interstate 70 and C-470 intersection.

The fire, believed to have been sparked by lightning, started in the Lakewood city limits, but quickly moved into unincorporated Jefferson County.

The open space area is parched, as conditions have been dry.

"I'm surprised that this hasn't happened before. It's bone dry up there," said resident Martin Lewis, who said he often hikes in the area.

The metro area has experienced days of record-breaking heat with little or no precipitation. Denver has had a 23-day streak of 90-degree-plus days.

Copyright 2008 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.