BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – The first call came in during the noon hour on Saturday from a witness who saw smoke near the Cal-Wood Education Center. On a day with heavy wind, it wasn’t long before the fire was racing along tinder-dry forest land.
“Gusty,” Robin Avery described it.
“It’s been bursting all through the night and all morning long,” said Robin’s wife, Cindy.
They sat in Boulder watching the fire run over ridges northwest of Boulder miles from where the fire was first spotted only hours before, but bearing down on the Mountain Ridge development of 19 homes where they live.
“The first news that we heard was that the fire was about 10 miles to the west of us,” said Robin. “I said, that’ll take a day or two to reach us.”
But Cindy was first to realize the potential. “I was already packing the bags,” she said.
They were out of the house less than an hour later.
“The sheriff came down the drive. He said, ‘You’ve got an hour left before the flames reach your house.’ I said, ‘We’ll be out in 10 minutes,’” said Robin.
The fire skipped over terrain, burning 8,788 acres as of Sunday morning. Winds raged with up to 60 mph gusts said CBS4 Meteorologist Dave Aguilera. They came primarily out of the southwest.
One of the first areas to be evacuated was Jamestown to the south of the fire’s center. The community of about 300 was out quickly, but the fire pushed away from the town. Lyons is to the north, but the wind direction meant the fire would trek east.
Lyons was not evacuated or even put on pre-evacuation orders, but people were cautioned by authorities to make a plan.
The Boulder County Sheriff says more than 3,000 people were evacuated on Saturday.
Structures were lost, but there’s no count on how many. CBS4 saw a large structure in the area of the Lake of the Pines subdivision burn for hours. Firefighters tried to keep the fire from leaping across Highway 36 which was closed Saturday afternoon.
One spot fire grew to several acres outside of Longmont, but was stopped.
“We’ve removed about 100 trees over the past several years, so we’ve got a good 100-150 of mitigated area,” said Robin. They worried though about fire coming over the ridge down onto their home. “It doesn’t take much to drop something on the forest floor.”
Saturday night, the wind moderated, then began to reverse direction. Winds will get strong again, but in the near opposite direction. First from the east, said Aguilera, then from the northeast. That could blow the fire back upon itself, which may be good, but evacuated Jamestown could find itself in its path.
Authorities say the fire was not lightning caused because of dry conditions there is no evidence of lightning in the area. They had no further information about a potential cause.
“It’s still too early to determine what the cause is. We did check the lightning indicator. There is no indication it’s weather-related or caused by lightning. At least preliminarily we are ruling out natural causes, but that is still under investigation,” said Boulder County Sheriff’s Office Division Chief Mike Wagner.