Panel Releases First Report on Colorado's Largest Wildfire

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- Colorado's largest wildfire grew so powerful by its second day that it overwhelmed treated areas that should have slowed it down, according to the draft report released Wednesday.

High winds, a drought and low moisture in trees fueled the 137,759-acre Hayman fire, according to the report prepared by a panel studying the blaze.

The blaze roared into most areas previously burned in prescribed fires or where trees were logged or thinned, methods frequently used to prevent wildfires.

Still, two earlier wildfires and a prescribed burn within the last year helped contain part of it, the report states. The fire's final perimeter lay next to boundaries of areas where the vegetation had been thinned.

The report is a step in a process to revise policies to prevent future fires from spreading as the Hayman did. That fire began June 8 about 40 miles southwest of Denver and raced across about 60,000 acres the next day.

``These preliminary results are very useful as we look toward creating more fire-resistant forests in the long term,'' said Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who asked the Forest Service in June to create the panel that studied the fire.

Scientists are expected to complete the full report by July, roughly a year after the Hayman fire was contained.

The government, independent and university researchers who studied the fire offered no guidance on policy.

The fire destroyed 132 homes. But researchers could not say whether having a metal roof or clearing surrounding brush was what saved 83 percent of homes in the burn area. Panel member Rick Stratton said it might have been firefighters' efforts that saved homes.

The panel also found that nonnative plants may threaten burned areas where native plants were destroyed.

``The panel's work is one more very important set of data and conclusions that will be useful to homeowners, business and people who spend time in the red zone,'' Udall said.

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