At least 19,000 people were under mandatory evacuations Saturday as a fast-moving wildfire burned in the Boulder, Colorado, area, authorities said.
No injuries were reported and it was not immediately clear if any structures were threatened, but the blaze near the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Mesa Laboratory & Visitor Center had doubled in size in a few hours Saturday afternoon.
The Boulder Office of Emergency Management tweeted that those ordered to leave included people connected to about 8,000 homes near the blaze. Large animals were being accepted at Boulder County Fairgrounds, authorities said.
The fire was estimated to have quickly grown from 60 acres to 123 acres, the office said. There was zero containment, it said.
Boulder Fire Rescue spokeswoman Marya Washburn said the day’s warm weather and strong winds were giving way to more favorable conditions on the front lines.
“The wind is now dying down, and we’re expecting the weather to work more in our favor,” she said Saturday evening.
Boulder police said people who signed up for cellphone emergency alerts and who were within a quarter mile of the Mesa Laboratory received wireless alerts ordering them to leave the area.
Air tankers seen on live coverage of the fire from NBC affiliate KUSA of Denver dropping retardant on the blaze.
Washburn said protecting homes and buildings was the top priority for now. “We’re doing everything we can to keep structures safe,” she said.
The National Weather Service said early Saturday that the area should brace for “near critical fire weather conditions” and possible record high temperatures in the mid to upper 70s.
Saturday’s blaze is not far from the area burned by the most destructive wildfire in state history, the Marshall Fire, which started Dec. 30 and burned into 2021.
It consumed nearly 10 square miles, destroyed 991 homes and damaged 127 other structures. The cause remains undetermined, although a Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks ranger wrote a report that includes the possibility it had two ignition points.
Michelle Acevedo, Cristian Santana spirit Julia Lee contributed.