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Ranchers, farmers help volunteer firefighters battle lightning-caused fire

Neighbors – ranchers and farmers – banded together in southeastern Colorado, using tractors to create fire lines to try and contain the flames.

LAMAR, Colo. — Several fires in southeastern Colorado burned homes and forced people to evacuate as small fire departments raced to try and get ahead of the flames. Ranchers said the dry weather and lightning made for the perfect storm Sunday night.

"This fire was started by a lightning strike," said Matt Neuhold, who lives and ranches in Lamar. "As soon as it hit with the 30 mph winds, it didn’t take but a matter of minutes to burn up a couple hundred acres."

The small, mostly-volunteer fire departments rushed to put out the flames. Neuhold’s neighbors jumped in tractors to try and help.

"All these neighbors with the big farm equipment, they got out there and were cutting fire breaks to try and keep it as contained as possible," said Neuhold. "We are so thankful to all those guys that didn’t think twice about burning that $5 a gallon diesel fuel to come and help put our fire out."

Several fires were reported around Lamar and surrounding counties Sunday night. The dry weather made scenes like this something Neuhold had been preparing for, but was hoping would never happen.

"It’s incredibly dry. The thing that makes it worse is these day-after-day-after- day of 20 to 25 mph winds. We just can’t get a break from them. It’s three to four days a week of these heavy sustained winds," said Neuhold. "We could see the lightning. You just know the conditions are absolutely ripe for a fire like that to start, with the lightning and the dry conditions."

All of Neuhold’s cattle and his home survived the fire last night. He credits the fire department and his neighbors with the tractors for helping him save all of that.

"If we don’t start getting some rain, these fires are just going to keep popping up," said Neuhold. 

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