Residents across state warned of smoke |

Residents across state warned of smoke

A military C-130 drops a load of fire retardant on a wildfire near Pine, Colo., on Wednesday, June 19, 2013. A new wildfire in the foothills southwest of Denver forced the evacuation of dozens of homes Wednesday as hot and windy conditions in much of Colorado and elsewhere in the West made it easy for fires to start and spread. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

DENVER — Hot, windy conditions across Colorado on Thursday left firefighters battling multiple wildfires, while residents in broad swaths of the state were warned about smoke in what has become the state’s most damaging fire season in history.

Even while battling the remnants of a wildfire near Colorado Springs — a blaze that claimed two lives and more than 500 homes — investigators were scouring for clues about the cause of the fire that broke out June 11.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said Thursday that investigators are on their hands and knees using magnifying glasses to go over a 28-square-foot area in the Black Forest Fire. He said they have all but ruled out natural causes but wouldn’t release any other details.

Maketa said evacuation calls were made to the home phone of the couple who died, but it’s not clear if they ever got the message.

As temperatures and winds picked up on the last day before summer, Coloradans were also impacted by smoke from fires outside
the state’s borders

At least six other wildfires were active in the state Wednesday.

The East Peak Fire in Huerfano County prompted evacuation orders near La Veta. The Huerfano County Courthouse in Walsenburg was closed as a precaution.

In addition, two backcountry fires started by lightning earlier this month in southwestern Colorado were growing.

The largest, the West Fork Fire, nearly tripled in size to nearly 19 square miles between Wednesday and Thursday. It started a spot fire across the Continental Divide, closing two campgrounds.

Hot and windy conditions also pushed the Windy Pass Fire to 700 acres and within a quarter-mile of structures on the south side of the Wolf Creek Ski Area.

Both fires have been fueled by large swaths of beetle-killed trees.

Firefighters have largely let the blazes burn. But fire response spokeswoman Anne Jeffery said they were working to keep them away from the ski resort now that the area burning has fewer dead trees and some open spaces.

No communities were threatened by the fires.

As temperatures and winds picked up on the last day before summer, Coloradans were also impacted by smoke from fires outside the state’s borders.

Wildfires in Utah and Arizona sent smoke into Dinosaur National Monument as well as Grand Junction and other towns near the borders.

The Colorado health department issued wildfire smoke advisories Thursday for parts of metro Denver and stretching south to include Colorado Springs. Smoke advisories were also issued for many southern and central Colorado towns, including Pueblo, Cripple Creek and La Junta.

People in smoke-affected areas were advised to limit outdoor exercise. The elderly, young and sick were advised to stay indoors.

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