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Firefighters Battle Blaze In Colorado Mesa Land

July 11, 1987

BATTLEMENT MESA, Colo. (AP) _ Vintage bombers dropped water and fire retardant Friday in an effort to aid 250 firefighters contain a 3,600-acre range fire that dry, gusty winds had fanned out of control.

Temperatures in the high 90s and winds gusting to 25 mph made conditions ″just about the worst we could have,″ said Dennis Neill, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman.

″This is a very nasty fire,″ he said, adding that the earliest firefighters hope to control the blaze is Sunday evening.

The fire apparently was started Thursday by children playing with matches, said Garfield County Sheriff Verne Soucie. Three isolated, unoccupied farmhouses were reported burned, along with the town’s microwave station.

Curt Bates, commander at the fire scene, estimated late Friday that the blaze was 25 percent contained, and said about 140 homes on Morrisania and Holms mesas southeast of here were no longer threatened.

The fire expanded by only 200 acres Friday afternoon as three World War II bombers dropped 28,000 gallons of fire retardant, he said.

For a time Thursday afternoon, westerly winds blew the fire directly at Battlement Mesa, a town of 1,500 built by Exxon USA for its now-defunct Colony oil shale project. Officials said Friday that the wind had shifted the town was not in danger.

Air drops in front yards and pumper trucks operating in driveways saved at least eight homes on the edge of town from the flames Thursday, authorities said.

About 60 people were evacuated Thursday, but most returned home after the wind shifted. On Friday, no new evacuations were ordered, but many residents moved their families out, leaving only a rear guard.

At the west edge of Battlement Mesa, residents were using garden hoses and sprinklers Friday in efforts to wet down the hundreds of acres of hot spots remaining from the fire’s scorching path.

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