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Early Season Wildfires Signal "Bad Omen" for Drought-Striken Colorado

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Two wildfires that erupted in northern Colorado on Friday continue to blaze in the region, signaling an early start to the wildfire season in the drought-stricken western United States.

Colorado wildfire near Fort Collins. (Photo: Ed Andrieski/AP) Burning about 75 miles northwest of Denver, the fires have been stoked by strong, erratic winds and "unseasonably high temperatures and low humidity," said Poudre Fire Authority Captain Patrick Love.

The larger of the two blazes, the Soldier Canyon Fire, scorched over 1,000 arces and prompted the evacuation of hundreds of residents. They were permitted back in their homes Saturday evening. 

A second, smaller fire reportedly broke out six miles north of Fort Collins, the Larimer County Office of Emergency Management said.

Reuters called the early-season fires a "bad omen" for the region, which has been plagued by "moderate to exceptional drought conditions," according to the US Drought Monitor.

"Are you kidding me?" tweeted noted environmentalist Bill McKibben. "March!"

Last year proved to be one of Colorado's worst ever wildfire seasons. According to the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, forest and brush fires scorched 384,803 acres in 2012, destroying 650 homes and killing six people.

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