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US Western State Declares State of Emergency Over Wildfires - 2002-06-12


The state of Colorado has declared a state of emergency as raging forest fires near Denver forced thousands of residents from their suburban homes. This gives the governor of the state the power to call the national guard to help battle the fires. The blaze has burned more than 40,000 hectares of forest and brushland.

Thirteen thousand people in the town of Sedalia, on the southern outskirts of Denver, have been forced to leave their houses and tens of thousands of nearby residents may be asked to leave. The fire has destroyed more than 20 structures and Forest Service officials say 3,100 other buildings are threatened.

Spokeswoman Barbara Masinton says shifting winds are making the firefighters' job difficult. "The big activity was on the southeast flank," she said, "so they're still working very hard there to gain some measurable containment."

People have fled the area with their cars and trucks loaded with furniture, and even with horses and cows from local ranches.

Those who choose to stay, like business owner Ron Feruzza, are keeping an eye on the winds. "We sat here and watched the smoke just rolling over the mountains all day long," he said, "and we watched the flags here to see which way the wind is shifting. I'm hoping that it keeps blowing the other way."

More than 500 firefighters are battling the blaze, one of eight now burning in Colorado. Officials are calling the fire near Denver the worst in the state's 126-year history. The blaze was started Saturday by an illegal campfire.

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