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Wildfire chases tourists in Colo.

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By The Associated Press
Friday, June 21, 2013, 9:09 p.m.
 

SOUTH FORK, Colo. — A huge wildfire threatened a tourist town in Colorado's southwestern mountains on Friday, forcing its roughly 400 residents to flee ahead of the fast-burning blaze fueled by hot, windy weather.

Wildland firefighters teamed up with local firefighters to try to protect South Fork, which is surrounded by the Rio Grande National Forest. State authorities said the 47-square-mile fire is about seven miles southwest of town and has been advancing at a rate of about a mile an hour. Thick smoke was limiting visibility.

Fire spokeswoman Penny Bertram wouldn't speculate on the likelihood of the town burning. There's a high probability of the fire reaching the town if the fire continues to behave as it has, though crews were staging resources to protect its buildings, she said.

“They're hedging their bets,” Bertram said.

Over 30 fire engines have been stationed near the town to protect it. An air tanker was also able to drop slurry ahead of the fire to try to slow its growth and giving firefighters a chance to dig a fire break, Bertram said.

Bertram and state authorities said the fire was several miles away from town by mid-afternoon but headed in its direction.

The town is a popular spot for hiking and camping. The fictional Griswold family camped in South Fork in 1983's “National Lampoon's Vacation.” The famous scene where a dog urinates on a picnic basket was filmed at South Fork's Riverbend Resort, called “Kamp Komfort” in the movie.

Residents were being sent to a high school in a neighboring town.

Firefighters have largely let the lightning-sparked fire burn because it's too hot and erratic to fight on the ground.

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