BELLVUE, Colo. - Authorities grounded firefighting aircraft battling an out-of-control blaze scorching central Colorado on Wednesday, reacting with caution to witness reports of meteor sightings.
The temporary move came amid several reported sky sightings near the 1,100-acre Springer Fire west of Colorado Springs.
Chaffee County Sheriff W. Peter Palmer said his office received multiple reports of sightings, including one person who thought a meteorite might have landed in a wooded area north of Buena Vista. Palmer said officials could not confirm that report.
Meanwhile, the crew of a heavy air tanker spotted something while making a slurry run on the blaze, said Steve Segin, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.
"They weren't sure what it was," Segin said.
The Colorado sightings corresponded with reports of a possible meteor filed by the crews of two commercial aircraft over Liberal, Kan., said meteorologist Scott Entrekin of the National Weather Service in Boulder.
Other sky sightings were reported in Raton, N.M., Entrekin said.
Ian Gregor, a spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration, said he had no such reports.
Fire officials ordered four single-engine aircraft to stay on the ground as a precaution. Two heavy air tankers were also affected. The planes soon resumed their attack on the fire, Entrekin said.
The American Meteor Society states that sky sightings often appear much closer than they actually are, saying the phenomenon is an illusion of perspective.
Firefighters took advantage of a break in the heat Wednesday to ramp up their attack against the High Park wildfire that has blackened more than 100 square miles in northern Colorado. The blaze has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9.
Dense smoke from a wildfire near Payson prompted a health watch in the Phoenix area. Residents were asked to avoid using gas-powered lawn mowers and to limit driving or carpool. The fire made a rapid run to the east, spreading under twin transmission lines that send power to the state's major metropolitan areas. It's 8,100 acres, up from 3,700 on Tuesday.
A 300-acre fire near popular Lake Isabella is 35 percent contained, U.S. Forest Service officials said Wednesday.
About 650 firefighters were battling the blaze on the northwest side of the lake and 200 more were on their way, said Forest Service spokeswoman Cindy Thill.
About 160 structures, including homes and cabins, and a campground near Sequoia National Park were evacuated Tuesday evening, but no structures have burned and no injuries have been reported, Thill said.
In San Diego County, a 995-acre, 3-day-old wildfire near Campo was contained Wednesday evening.
The Romero fire was declared 70 percent contained on the west side of the Rio Grande on the northern edge of Albuquerque.
The blaze began about 3:30 p.m. but its cause wasn't immediately clear.
Fire By Tucson grows
A wildfire burning in the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson grew Wednesday to about 4,600 acres, but crews have constructed containment lines around 60 percent of the fire.
The Fox Fire was started by lightning Saturday in a remote area of the Rincon wilderness. It's burning mainly grass and brush.
Fire crews are conducting burnout operations to restrict fire movement. The fire moved to the south and west Wednesday.
There are about 200 people assigned to the fire.
Arizona Daily Star