"The wind has died down so the fire hasn't been spreading as fast," said Boulder County spokesman Andrew Barth. "Basically with all the hot spots we can't say whether the fire has been contained."
The fire burned across the county Wednesday, destroying two barns and two homes, Barth said. But the only injuries were minor: one firefighter twisted his ankle and another got dirt in his eyes.
He said 150 firefighters would work overnight, while another 50 rested. Firefighters were trying to keep the flames from reaching the city limits as winds began to wane overnight into Thursday.
The fire, believed to have started when winds knocked down a power line, has burned 2.8 square miles in Boulder County, about 25 miles northwest of Denver. The blaze was one of three wildfires Wednesday that swept through the county. The two others have been contained.
"We could see the flames and the smoke was really coming down into our faces when we left," said 56-year-old Sharon Getman, who left her home with her parents. Getman said she took Bibles, pictures and two U.S. flags belonging to her grandfathers, both Army veterans. "I was scared because I didn't know what was going to be happening and the wind was relentless."
Television video showed flames leaping across a highway and racing up a parched brown hillside. Glowing embers blew across a fire-blackened field like snow.
Flames licked the shoulders of one road as cars and pickups rolled by, some towing livestock trailers.
Firefighters thought they had gotten a handle on the fire when powerful winds pushed across their containment lines and in the direction of two neighborhoods in rural and mountain residential areas, forcing the evacuation of 391 homes late Wednesday. Previously, 532 homes were evacuated near a subdivision in the northwest part of the county.
"The fire was so close and all hell was breaking loose," said Fred Anders, 66, adding that he could see the fire about 200 yards from his home. Anders and his wife Candace went to a shelter at a nearby high school but said they were going to sleep in their car. The couple also brought binoculars to keep a watch on their home.
"I won't sleep anyway," he said. "You can't sleep. Get real."