March 20, 2017 / 5:24 PM / 6 months ago

Colorado residents return to homes after Boulder wildfire

(Reuters) - Hundreds of people forced from their homes by a small wildfire near the University of Colorado in Boulder were allowed to return to their properties on Monday as firefighters made headway in containing the blaze, officials said.

The Sunshine Fire, named after a canyon where it broke out early on Sunday, has scorched 62 acres (25 hectares) of woodland and is 50 percent contained, said Gabi Boerkircher, spokeswoman for the Boulder Office of Emergency Management.

No structures have been damaged and no injuries have been reported, Boerkircher said. Authorities have said the blaze appears to have been caused by human activity.

The fire on Sunday threatened more than 400 homes in the foothills near the university’s campus, and residents were ordered to evacuate.

Forecasts had called for high winds, which may have fanned the fire, but the weather instead calmed overnight, allowing firefighters to put out hot spots and flare-ups, officials said.

Authorities lifted evacuation orders on Monday morning, re-opening roads and allowing residents to return. Still, a force of nearly 180 firefighters was battling the blaze on Monday.

Forecasters have issued a “red flag” warning for the area because of warm temperatures and dry conditions. As a result, firefighters were on guard in case the blaze jumps a containment line.

Much of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Nebraska are in drought conditions ranging from moderate to extreme, the agency said.

Prairie fires stoked by high winds and tinder-dry vegetation in the southern Great Plains killed at least six people and prompted thousands of residents to evacuate early this month.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; editing by Grant McCool

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