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Drone crash caused 52-acre Boulder County wildfire, sheriff's office says

Three University of Colorado researchers were using the drone to conduct severe weather studies when it crashed, the sheriff's office said.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — A drone crash sparked the wildfire that burned 52 acres and forced evacuations Wednesday afternoon in Boulder County, the sheriff's office said. 

No structures were lost and no injuries were reported in the Table Mountain Fire, which started just before 3 p.m. in the area of the 5000-block of Nelson Road, which is west of Longmont.

More than 300 people were forced to evacuate due to the fire. The evacuation order was lifted at about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday.

RELATED: Grass fire burns about 52 acres in Boulder County

The Boulder County Sheriff's Office said Thursday that three researchers associated with the University of Colorado’s aerospace engineering department were at the Table Mountain Radio Quiet Zone using a drone to conduct severe weather studies.

The drone crashed, causing its lithium-ion battery cell to come out and catch fire, the sheriff's office said.

The crew used a fire extinguisher, but due to the high winds, they were unable to stop the grass fire before it spread. 

The sheriff's office said the crew remained on scene and fully cooperated with investigators. Deputies said they were flying within regulations, and because it was an accident, no criminal charges will be filed.

RELATED: NCAR Fire: Investigators have 'exhausted all leads' in identifying suspect

The sheriff's office on Thursday also released the cause of the NCAR Fire, a 190-acre wildfire that forced thousands of people to evacuate last month. They said the fire was human-caused, but they have not been able to identify a suspect.

Crews responded to at least four wildfires in Boulder County on Tuesday, none of which burned any buildings. An area resident will face charges in connection with one of those fires, the sheriff's office said. It's unclear how that fire started, or what caused the other three wildfires. 

RELATED: At least 4 fires reported in Boulder County on Tuesday

RELATED: Charges pending after fire burns near Twin Lakes in Boulder County

Friday could bring Colorado's worst fire weather of the year so far. The National Weather Service (NWS) said the Denver metro area and much of Eastern Colorado will face extremely critical fire weather. 

“The combination of everything coming together on Friday could make it the worst day we’ve seen since the Marshall Fire day,” said Paul Schlatter, a meteorologist at the NWS in Boulder.

RELATED: Friday will likely bring Colorado's worst fire weather of the year

RELATED: Extreme fire danger Friday across E. Colorado

Even with these terrible fire weather conditions, there is no trouble unless there's a spark. That's where people can take control over the situation by being extra careful with any fire activities and reporting any suspicious smoke to 911 immediately.

RELATED: Extreme fire danger on Friday prompts counties to enact Stage 1 restrictions

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