Colorado wind gusts spread wildfires, tip over big trucks

DENVER - Winds in Colorado gusting over 70 mph on Friday helped spread wildfires, tipped over large trucks and broke weather records. One gust of 101 mph was reported at a mountain pass.

About 300 homes were evacuated because of wildfires near Longmont and in foothills near Boulder. They were quickly contained by firefighters working amid blowing dust and smoke.

The 24-acre fire near Longmont destroyed two barns and an outbuilding, Boulder County Sheriff's Office Division Chief Robert Sullenberger said.

The cause of that fire was unclear, but officials believed the 5-acre fire near Boulder was caused by a tree that fell into a utility pole that fell on the ground, igniting a grass fire.

Crews were fighting another wind-driven grass fire in southeastern Fort Collins. Authorities said it had scorched about 150 acres, but no homes were damaged. It was about 75 percent contained.

The powerful jet streams winds were blamed for knocking over trucks on highways, including one near Longmont on Interstate 25 and at least two on Interstate 70 in the mountains. A 130-mile stretch of Interstate 70 between Golden and Dotsero was closed to commercial vehicles as a result.

Some broken car windshields were also reported because of the wind, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Tracy Trulove said.

The 101 mph wind gust was reported at Berthoud Pass about an hour drive west of Denver, the National Weather Service said.

The heavy winds followed a week of unseasonably warm and dry weather that raised the fire danger in Colorado's eastern half.

One of several fires in Denver on Wednesday temporarily shut down train service to the airport.

The winds were warm and helped set records for the warmest February day ever recorded in Colorado Springs, Denver and Pueblo. The temperature hit 77 degrees in Colorado Springs on Friday, 80 at Denver International Airport and 82 in Pueblo.

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