FORT COLLINS A 40-acre wildfire burning in gusty winds and warm weather in northern Colorado was threatening homes west of Fort Collins on Friday and prompted about 50 people to leave the area.
The fire started burning near the visitors center in Lory State Park near the scene of a large wildfire last summer that burned 259 homes and killed one person. Firefighters were also battling another smaller fire nearby.
Blackened areas from last years High Park Fire were visible about a quarter-mile beyond the latest, larger fire, which was spreading along the western edge of Horsetooth Reservoir in an area that didnt burn last year.
Crews appear to have made some progress stopping the fires advance toward homes to the north and were focusing on the fires southern end.
Authorities abruptly closed off access to one neighborhood that was in the fires path but had not yet been evacuated, blocking residents trying to get in to check their property or retrieve pets and possessions.
Mark Martina, a mortgage broker, was heading home to get his dog when he reached the roadblock not far from his house.
Its unbelievable, he said. Its pretty ridiculous to shut things down and not let anyone know.
Angela Dietrich, whose home was not in the fires immediate path, said the smoke was so bad she couldnt see her yard from inside the house.
She said she was amazed the wildfire sprang up so early in the year.
This is a really bad start, she said.
Poudre Fire Capt. Patrick Love said aircraft have been requested to fight the fire, but he doesnt believe any are available.
I dont think theyre in the area. Not this time of the year, he said.
Messages left for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, werent immediately returned.
Temperatures reached into the 70s along Colorados Front Range, record-breaking territory for March. Part of Horsetooth Reservoir, however, is still frozen over.
Colorados wildfire season also started in March last year.