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Fourmile Canyon Fire: Threat To Boulder Could Pick Up Again Friday Afternoon With Strong Winds

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UPDATE: The Boulder Daily Camera is reporting that the Fourmile Canyon fire has destroyed at least $76.8 million of property.

So far the Fourmile Fire has cost $4 million to fight, although that figure is also expected to rise.

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Read more: Flights grounded, but evacuees of Fourmile Canyon Fire in Boulder got to go home - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16041510#ixzz0zAS24Ul7

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Fire crews held a wildfire outside of Boulder at bay early Friday, allowing some 2,000 evacuees to briefly return to homes and get important belongings and medicine.

But winds are expected to pick up again later Friday, and evacuees were warned they should get out quickly because the area had no power or phones, and officials would have a hard time warning anyone who stayed if the fire threatened their neighborhood again. An area where at least 169 homes have burned is still off limits.

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Resident Tom Bechkey, a geologist, didn't think it was worth it.

"There's no power, no phone, no gas, no nothin'. Even staying up there is futile," Bechkey said at the YMCA fire shelter, where about a dozen evacuees watched the morning fire briefing on television.

Firefighters had worried strong overnight winds could fan the 6,385-acre blaze, and officials put 9,000 residents on alert for possible evacuations. But fire spokesman Terry Krasko said containment lines build around 45 percent of the fire's 20-mile-perimeter held overnight despite the winds.

"We had a very good night," he said.

Krasko said it was a good idea for people in the city to be prepared and aware but didn't think an evacuation was imminent.

"We're not telling anybody to be ready at a moment's notice," he said.

About 800 firefighters from 20 states were battling the blaze.

Dubbed the Fourmile Canyon fire, the fire erupted Monday and quickly left smoking rubble in mountain neighborhoods filled with a mix of million-dollar homes and modest ranches. Slopes of charred trees created landscapes resembling a barren winter with gray ash instead of snow.

Other parts of central and northern Colorado and southern Wyoming also remained under a red flag warning Friday, meaning conditions were ripe for fire.

The cause of the fire that destroyed more homes than any other blaze in Colorado history remained under investigation. Authorities were looking at whether a vehicle crashed into a propane tank and set it off.

About 3,500 people have been out of their homes since Monday, many frustrated by a lack of information about what was happening behind fire lines. Some got around roadblocks by hiking and biking in. A limited number stayed.

Lee McCormack made it to his house Thursday but was stopped at a roadblock on a second attempt.

"It's shut down. It doesn't matter how much you plead," McCormack. "I gave the cop a Power Bar and he still wouldn't let me up there."

The city of Boulder told west-side residents to prepare to leave if the fire moved into town, setting off a scramble by some. From tony mansions to the north to a college sprawl west of the University of Colorado to the south, some residents watered lawns, as well as their roofs, and packed cars with possessions. Others assembled on a smoky mountain overlook after dark, waiting to see if the distant fire glow seen earlier in the week would reappear. It didn't.

Caitlin Kolibas, 22, a college senior who lives in the University Hill neighborhood, said her parents in New Jersey were "trying to get me a little more concerned." But the university held classes as usual.

Boulder resident Lisa Carmichael loaded her pickup with a precious keepsake: Her grandfather's rocking chair.

"I lived through the Malibu fire, where the fire jumped over the Pacific Coast Highway and burned houses on the sand," Carmichael said. "So I know that with this wind, if the fire department says to take it seriously, you should take it seriously."

The loss of homes surpassed that of the 2002 Hayman fire in southern Colorado, which destroyed 133 homes and 466 outbuildings.

Nationwide, about 2.6 million acres have burned this summer, about 50 percent less than the 10-year average, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

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Associated Press writers Ivan Moreno and Ben Neary contributed to this report.

MAP OF AFFECTED AREAS:


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