Colo. Wildfire Kills Two; 900 Homes Ordered Evacuated

Two people were killed in a Colorado wildfire that burned more than four-and-a-half square miles and destroyed as many as 25 buildings in the mountains southwest of Denver, authorities said Tuesday.

Fires top out trees as the blaze just about comes over the ridge near Reynolds Ranch Monday, March 26, 2012 in Conifer, Colo.A fast-moving wildfire destroyed at least five houses in the mountains west of Denver on Monday.

Two people were killed in a Colorado wildfire that burned more than four-and-a-half square miles and destroyed as many as 25 buildings in the mountains southwest of Denver, authorities said Tuesday.

One victim's body was found in a fire-damaged home and was "likely a homeowner or person in the area," Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jacki Kelley told reporters. That person was found on Monday in the fire zone and was not an emergency responder.

The second person who died was found near where the first body was located, authorities said. No further details were immediately available.

The fast-moving wildfire was reported at midday Monday and spread quickly amid dry, windy weather.

Authorities ordered residents of more than 900 homes to evacuate.

"We're in a defensive mode, structure protection only," Kelley said. "We're not really fighting the fire right now."

Crews from Arizona have been called in for support, with the blaze churning through rugged terrain rich with dry brush. Roughly 450 firefighters are expected on the scene.

There were no other reports of injuries, but a sheriff's deputy who was alerting residents to leave was trapped in his patrol car after he inadvertently drove into a ditch in the thick smoke, Kelley said. He summoned help by radio.

Single-digit humidity values, winds blowing at 40 to 50 miles per hour and a lack of snowfall during the past month put most of eastern Colorado under a red-flag warning for high fire danger, the National Weather Service said.

The high winds also had prompted flight delays at Denver International Airport on Monday.

Steve Segin, spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Coordination Center, said air tankers had been on alert for the past week in anticipation of extreme wildfire hazards in Colorado, but the gusty winds had grounded the fleet.

"There is really not much that can be done from the air until the winds subside," he said.

Up to a dozen smaller fires were reported from the northeast Colorado plains to the southern part of the state. There were no immediate reports of injuries or structures destroyed in any of the other fires.