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Colorado Wildfires: Firefighters In Loveland Catch A Break, Charges Considered In Costly Fourmile Fire

First Posted: 09/15/10 01:18 PM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 06:40 PM ET

LOVELAND, Colo. (AP) -- Residents forced out of their homes by a northern Colorado wildfire are returning.

About 100 people who were evacuated on Sunday were allowed to go home shortly after 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

Battle Begins to Contain Second Colorado Fire
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Authorities believe a second fire in northern Colorado has destroyed two homes. Larimer County deputies say there are other homes near the blaze but it isn't moving very fast. Firefighters say they're in a good position to get it under control. (Sept. 13)
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Officials say electricity has been restored to about 95 percent of the homes and the rest will have power by Thursday.

At last report, the fire was 35 percent contained and that's expected to climb.

The fire in the foothills west of Loveland blackened 710 acres and destroyed two homes.

The final evacuation orders at another Colorado fire were also lifted on Wednesday. That fire was west of Boulder and destroyed at least 166 homes.

A small grass fire broke out Wednesday about 25 miles south of Denver. No damage or injuries were reported.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

LOVELAND, Colo. (AP) - Residents forced out of their homes by a northern Colorado wildfire may be allowed to return on Wednesday after a meteorologist said the winds won't be as bad as expected.

Firefighters had been told to expect winds of 20 to 25 mph Wednesday, but a revised forecast predicted only occasional gusts of that strength, with weaker winds overall.

"We always like to hear less wind when we're dealing with fire," said Terry Krasko, a spokesman for the fire management team.

If the winds do kick up, firefighters have "a small air force" of tankers and helicopters ready to drop fire retardant and water, Krasko said. The aircraft were brought to Colorado last week to fight a 10-square-mile fire that destroyed at least 166 homes west of Boulder.

The northern Colorado fire, in the foothills west of Loveland, has blackened 710 acres and destroyed two homes and an unknown number of vehicles.

Firefighters thought the burned area was as big as 925 acres, or about 1 1/2 square miles, but they revised that downward after better mapping.

The most recent estimates put the fire at 35 percent contained and the cost of firefighting at $1.7 million.

Krasko said the containment figure will be revised upward Wednesday.

Authorities said about 100 people were evacuated on Sunday. Some were allowed into their homes on Tuesday to get clothes and medicines but were escorted out the same day.

Investigators said the fire was started accidentally by two residents who were burning leaves and other debris. Investigators turned over their findings to the Larimer County district attorney on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said they don't expect to decide whether to file charges until next week. The suspects' names haven't been released.

Utility crews were working to restore electrical power to the area.

The blaze west of Boulder is completely encircled by fire lines, and firefighters expect to declare it fully controlled by Friday. On Wednesday, crews were locating and extinguishing hot spots, removing dangerous trees and restoring the fire lines they cut to a more natural condition.

The last of the evacuation orders were lifted at midday.

Investigators believe the Boulder blaze originated from a fire in a pit started by a volunteer firefighter. They say the firefighter had doused it with water and stirred the ashes to put it out, but strong winds reignited it.

A decision on whether to file charges isn't expected until next week. The firefighter's name hasn't been released.

Boulder, Larimer and at least six other Colorado counties have imposed bans or restrictions on outdoor fires. The federal Bureau of Land Management has placed fire restrictions on BLM land in all or part of eight counties in western and northwestern Colorado.

A small grass fire broke out Wednesday in a rural area near the town of Castle Rock, about 25 miles south of Denver.

South Metro fire department spokesman Andy Lyon said it started near railroad tracks and grew to about half dozen acres before it was contained. There were no reports of damage to any buildings or injuries.

Conditions were slightly better in western Colorado. Federal authorities plan to light a prescribed 400-acre burn near Paonia on Thursday.

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