One person was killed and hundreds more evacuated from their homes in Colorado Monday as a fast-moving wildfire burned through more than four-and-a-half square miles, authorities said.
The death was confirmed overnight by authorities in Jefferson County, Colo., a largely rural area 25 miles southwest of Denver where the wildfire was first reported midday Monday.
Authorities said the fire, which officials suspect flared up from a controlled burn in the area last week, spread quickly because of dry and windy conditions in the area.
At least five homes were destroyed in the area and more than 900 homes were evacuated Monday. Authorities overnight told homeowners in surrounding neighborhoods to be ready to evacuate immediately should the direction of the flame shift.
“A guy whose house I think is on fire right now called me and said get up here and get your horses out,” said one evacuee. “I’ve got nothing … just the clothes on my back and my babies.”
The thick smoke that choked the sky as far away as Denver caused a sheriff’s deputy to drive his patrol car into a ditch while alerting residents to evacuate. He was rescued and no other injuries were reported in the blaze.
Authorities have not released the name of the person who died or the circumstances around the death.
Authorities said the fire was spread by winds gusting as high as 70 miles per hour and that grew it more than 100 times in size in just a matter of hours.
Jefferson County officials were asking for help from fire departments as far away as Arizona to assist the nearly 100 firefighters on the ground now. Authorities also hoped to have air tankers available to drop fire retardant on the flames today.
“We’ve asked for air support and we’re hoping, crossing our fingers, that we get that tomorrow,” Jefferson County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacki Kelly said Monday. “We asked for it today and they simply couldn’t fly because it’s too dangerous.”
Evacuees were moved to temporary shelters in two high schools and the Red Cross was activating its resources to help as well.
“It’s a scary thing,” evacuee Zach Higgins told ABC News. “You want to pack up everything you can but you’re not able to. You just want to get out with your lives. Those things are replaceable but your lives aren’t.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.