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Families Flee Wind-Whipped Colo. Wildfire

April 2, 2004

LAPORTE, Colo. (AP) _ Scores of families fled a wind-whipped wildfire Thursday as it crept toward a subdivision 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 and had grown to at least 1,800 acres.

``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 neighbors said there were at least 80 homes in the area.

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 3,700-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 wildfire burning in the Gila River basin grew to 5,700 acres but was about half contained. No homes or communities were threatened. Officials expected containment by Saturday.

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On the Net:

National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov

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