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One found dead in Colorado wildfire

One person has been found dead in a Colorado wildfire that burned more than 4.5 square miles and destroyed at least five homes in the mountains south-west of Denver, authorities said.

The victim has not yet been named and investigators have not said how they died.

The fast-moving wildfire was reported at midday on Monday and spread quickly amid dry, windy weather.

"We're in a defensive mode, structure protection only," said Jefferson County Sheriff's spokeswoman Jacki Kelley. "We're not really fighting the fire right now."

Ms Kelley said authorities do not yet know how many houses were lost but said it was at least five and probably more than 10. Authorities ordered residents of more than 900 homes to evacuate.

There were no other reports of injuries, but a sheriff's deputy who was alerting residents to leave was trapped in his patrol car after he inadvertently drove into a ditch in the thick smoke, Ms Kelley said. He summoned help by radio.

Up to a dozen smaller fires were reported from the north-east Colorado plains to the southern part of the state. There were no immediate reports of injuries or structures destroyed in any of the other fires.

The largest fire was burning about 25 miles south-west of Denver in a rugged, largely rural area where the altitude ranges from 7,000ft (2,100m) to 8,200ft (2,500m). The region of pines and grassland is dotted with hamlets and the occasional expensive home. It is several miles - and mountain ridges - west of Denver's tightly populated south-western suburbs, which were not threatened.

The fire apparently flared up from planned burning carried out in the area last week, Ms Kelley said. Prescribed burns are usually done to thin out vegetation in hopes of reducing the chances of a major wildfire.

About 100 firefighters were expected to spend the night protecting homes. Officials were calling in help from as far away as Arizona and hoped to be able to have air tankers drop fire retardant on the flames. Shelters were set up in two high schools and the Red Cross said it was preparing to send cots and blankets.

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