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Firefighters gain upper hand against Fourmile fire in Colorado

So far, more than 6,400 acres have burned, destroying at least 169 homes in the Fourmile Canyon area five miles west of Boulder. Still, the size of wildfires in the West this year is relatively low.

By Staff writer / September 11, 2010

Fire fighters from Rosewood, North Dakota remove firewood and debris from around a home in the Fourmile Canyon fire area near Boulder, Colorado. The fire has destroyed at least 169 homes and structures.

Mark Leffingwell/AP

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Firefighters are gaining the upper hand against a costly blaze that broke out Sept. 6 near Boulder, Colo.

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So far, the wildfire has burned more than 6,400 acres in the Fourmile Canyon area, five miles west of downtown Boulder. Investigators say the blaze may have been caused by a vehicle striking a propane tank,

The fire has destroyed at least 169 homes, valued at a combined $76.9 million, according to a tally by the Daily Camera, Boulder's daily newspaper. Slightly more than 1,000 firefighters from 20 states have been battling the fire.

Fire fire officials say the fire is now 56 percent contained and should be fully contained by Monday.

IN PICTURES: Colorado wildfires

The Fourmile Canyon fire is one of nine major wildfires currently burning in the western US, which have so far have affected a combined 40,000 acres.

Although it may be of little comfort to people effected by the Fourmile Fire, nationally this year could end with the fewest acres burned by wildfires in a decade, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

Through Sept. 10, wildfires this year have torched 2,657,483 million acres around the US, the fewest acres burned for the same period since at least 2001. This compares with a peak of 7,899,146 million acres burned during the same period in 2006, and an average for the decade of some 5.7 million acres for the period.

Some of the factors contributing to the decline may include a fuel load reduced by previous fires, as well as an easing of drought conditions in some portions of the West.

Progress on the Fourmile fire, aided by a fall-off in high winds the area experienced earlier in the week, has been significant enough to prompt the release of some 110 fire trucks, according to local fire officials. About 2,000 of 3,000 people affected by mandatory evacuations have been allowed to return home, under the proviso that they be ready to leave quickly if the fire kicks back up again, according to local press reports.

IN PICTURES: Colorado wildfires

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