THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Fire evacuees return to homes

Associated Press / September 11, 2010

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BOULDER, Colo. — Crews held a wildfire near Boulder at bay yesterday, allowing some 2,000 evacuees to return home with a warning to be prepared to flee again.

Winds picked up again yesterday with gusts of up to 30 miles per hour, and residents were warned to keep an eye on the weather and how it might affect the fire.

Without power or phones, officials would have a hard time warning anyone who stayed if the fire threatened their neighborhood again. An area where at least 169 homes have burned was still off-limits.

Evacuees have been out of their homes for four days, but Tom Bechkey, a geologist, didn’t think it was worth returning.

“There’s no power, no phone, no gas, no nothin.’ Even staying up there is futile,’’ Bechkey said at the YMCA fire shelter. Officials hope to have the 6,385-acre blaze contained in three to five days.

Susan DiPrima returned to her two-story log house with a view of the city with a spring in her step.

“It’s here! It’s still here!’’ the retiree said with elation as she entered her house. Less than half a mile from her home below Sugarloaf Mountain, the ground was scorched and trees were blackened and ashy. She had been told earlier that her home had survived.

Boulder officials said yesterday that residents should remain alert, but Jim Thomas, the head of the fire management team, said he was somewhat confident there was no threat to the university town. “Our optimism is much better right now,’’ he said.

About 950 firefighters from 20 states were battling the blaze, which has cost $4 million to fight so far.

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