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Boulder Fourmile Canyon fire update: Will deadly California blaze cut into resources?

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Last night, the high winds that hit the Fourmile Canyon fire burn area near Boulder didn't exacerbate the situation as feared. As Boulder County public information officer Mike Banuelos says this morning, "Firefighters held the line."

But will some of them be sent to San Bruno, California, to fight a deadly conflagration still burning at this writing?

The San Bruno fire, caused by a natural gas explosion, has reportedly destroyed over fifty homes and injured more than 120 people. Most outlets are reporting three deaths as a result of the fire, but the Los Angeles Times puts the figure at six. And that toll could grow.

So, too, has the number of firefighters working Fourmile Canyon. At this time yesterday morning, the total was 550; as of now, Banuelos says "we have more than 700 firefighters from at least 35 local, regional and national agencies," as well as "dozens of aircraft, including heavy, fixed-wing air tankers and heli-tankers."

Could some of these firefighting experts be sent to California? Banuelos hasn't heard anything to that effect yet, but he emphasizes that Fourmile "is a very high priority nationwide."

Moreover, it's far from fully contained. Numerous news agencies are reporting 40 percent containment, and while Banuelos can't confirm that figure, he doesn't dispute it, either. In addition, he says there have been no more confirmed residences or structures burned, leaving the total at 172 structures lost, 169 of them residences, with 25 other structures sustaining damage.

Yesterday, some residents on the eastern edge of the evacuation area were allowed back into their homes, then ordered out again -- although some have refused to leave. Will authorities be evicting them today?

"Officials have been going door to door," Banuelos notes, "but they can't force folks out of their homes. We're just doing the best we can with the information we have to get folks out of the danger area."

As for the warnings given to west Boulder residents about possibly leaving their homes should conditions shift, Banuelos points out that "those warnings were preparatory. We wanted to give folks the most heads-up as possible, as opposed to really getting ready for a full-fledged evacuation." He adds that advice about removing potential fuel for the fire "is always applicable" -- meaning those who haven't taken this suggestion should consider doing so today.

In the meantime, Boulder County has set up a Fourmile fire donation drop-off site at 3111 28th Street. According to Banuelos, "we're looking for gently used childrens' clothes, size-large adult clothes, unused personal hygiene items, adult and baby diapers and school supplies." Items can be left at the address from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Page down to see the Boulder press release about fire-fuel removal and other precautionary measures, as well as the latest local videos about the blaze.

City takes precautions in advance of high winds; urges residents to remain vigilant and prepare for possible evacuations

Forecasters are calling for wind gusts as high as 50 mph starting after about 6 p.m. today, Thursday, Sept. 9, and lasting into early morning hours. The City of Boulder is taking several measures to help protect residents and structures should these winds push the Fourmile Canyon wildfire into the city limits.

City officials are working with employees from fire, police, Open Space and Mountain Parks, public works and Parks and Recreation to put mitigation, evacuation and other emergency plans in effect. Some specific efforts include mowing grass along the western edge of the city to reduce fuel around residential areas, planning for possible evacuations and sharing information with our community.

"We are certainly hoping for the best, but as a city, we are doing the very things we would urge residents to do - staying vigilant and planning for the worst," said City Manager Jane S. Brautigam. "While city neighborhoods have been spared a direct impact so far, this remains a volatile situation. There are concerns about the fire's path becoming less predictable and the possibility of spot fires from embers."

Residents who live west of Broadway are specifically encouraged to take the following actions:

• Clear out lawns and western areas, removing all combustibles, including firewood, lawn furniture, play equipment, grills and propane tanks.

• Do not put propane tanks inside garages. Move them to the east side of your home in a highly visible location.

• Mow tall grass and remove extra brush from the west side of your home.

• Make certain that all windows on the west side of your home are closed and keep all interior doors closed. Keep your porch light and all exterior lights on.

• Make sure you have gas in your car and park your vehicle pointed in the direction of the road.

• Prepare your take-away kit with important documents, photos, medications and other significant items and put it in your car.

• Consider making shelter arrangements with friends and family members, if possible, for you and your pets.

Brautigam, Fire Chief Larry Donner, Police Chief Mark Beckner and other city officials have been in continual communication with county, state and federal authorities, monitoring the fire and its possible impacts on the City of Boulder. The city has also provided significant resources to the firefighting, communication and evacuee support efforts.

"We are incredibly grateful for all of the work firefighters from near and far have done since Monday, and we are committed to continuing to help in all ways that we can," Brautigam said. "We hope for good news soon, but we want our residents to know that the danger has not yet passed. This is an ideal time for families to develop a plan that could be implemented on a moment's notice."

The fire department website includes a great deal of information about wildfires, including specific tips on preparing for possible evacuations. This site can be accessed at: http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2408&Itemid=779.

The city also encourages all residents to monitor local news reports and check for up-to-date official information at http://www.boulderoem.com. If you have not already done so, sign up for emergency text alerts at http://www.boco911alert.com.

If a request to evacuate becomes necessary, residents are urged to do so immediately to help save lives and give firefighters the ability to bring in necessary equipment and crews to protect properties.

"If we reach an emergency situation, we will do everything we can to respond," Brautigam said. "We will need full cooperation from residents. I know we can count on that from our community."

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