Buffalo Fire forces residents in more than 1,300 homes near Silverthorne to evacuate

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SILVERTHORNE, Colo. -- A wildfire erupted Tuesday in an area of Colorado known for its ski resorts, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,300 homes and marking the latest in a series of blazes that have ignited in the drought-stricken U.S. West.

The fire near Silverthorne had burned only about 100 acres but was dangerously close to two densely populated housing developments near Silverthorne.

"This area, there is a lot of homes that are pretty tightly packed together," U.S. Forest Service spokesman Adam Bianchi said. "Being a resort town, there's a need for a lot of housing and there's only so much available space for good land to build on."

Bianchi said the Buffalo Fire had come to within about 200 yards of a subdivision that includes condominiums, apartments and pricey homes.

The closest ski resort to the fire, Keystone, is about 8 miles away and across Dillon Reservoir.

About 50 firefighters were battling the blaze initially, but more were on the way, along with heavy air tankers and helicopters.

Crews will continue an aggressive air and ground response on Wednesday to contain the fire and protect homes in the area.

"I was absolutely shocked by how fast it spread," Silverthorne resident Jake Schulman told The Summit Daily after spotting the fire while hiking.

"There were big black rolling clouds coming off it and it had gotten to the edge of the forest, right next to the neighborhood."

The fire had not destroyed any homes as of Tuesday night. Officials are crediting fuel breaks in helping contain the fire, a system that has been in place since 2007.

The fuel breaks are strips of land where vegetation has been removed to improve the ability of firefighters to control and advancing wildfire.

Those living below Twenty Grand Road are under pre-evacuation notice, meaning they must be ready to go if the fire flares up.

The American Red Cross has set up a full hospitality shelter at Frisco Elementary School.

A hotline at 970-668-9730 with updates will open at 7 a.m.

A west wind up to 25 mph will be difficult for crews and could push smoke toward the Front Range and into the Denver metro area.

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