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Flagstaff Mountain Fire Threatens Homes, NCAR in Boulder

While the Waldo Canyon Fire exploded again in Colorado Springs Tuesday, firefighters in Boulder also had their hands full with a new wildfire that forced mandatory evacuations for homes on Flagstaff Mountain. 

Authorities are also warning thousands of residents in south Boulder to be ready to evacuate if winds send the Flagstaff Fire in that direction.

The proximity to the city of Boulder and the National Center for Atmospheric Research is one of the main concerns for firefighters, who are focused on structure protection.

"The good news is NCAR’s done a lot of mitigation so a lot of the fuels have been taken away from that are and that would give us a chance," said Boulder Police spokesperson Kim Kobel.

Crews did make some progress attacking the blaze from the air despite the erratic winds.

As dusk neared Tuesday the fire continued to send up an impressive plume of smoke, casting eerie shadows over the famous flatirons. 

Evacuee Conor Scanlon watched nervously from a nearby police roadblock at Chautauqua Park.

"Pretty much our backyard is probably where the fire originated," Scanlon said.

Still, Scanlon tried to be optimistic.

"It’s reassuring to see all the slurry bombers up here and since we had half of the federal firefighting forces in the nation in Colorado already," he said. "It was a pretty good week to have a backyard fire."

Indeed, a federal Type 1 Management team that was already stationed in the Denver area will take over the fire Wednesday. 

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.