Colorado fire tops 56,000 acres, weather stays hot and windy
POSTED: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 9:00am
UPDATED: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 9:14am
CNN — Firefighters in northern Colorado face another round of nightmare conditions on Monday as high temperatures, low relative humidity and gusty winds whip a blaze near Fort Collins.
The High Park Fire has consumed more than 56,000 acres so far, fire authorities said. It is about 45% contained. More than 1,700 personnel were battling the blaze.
"It just feels really dire. It's scary," resident Lupe Sandoval told CNN affiliate KUSA TV. "You feel bad for everybody."
The National Weather Service rates the fire risk in six Western states on Monday as "critical." Red flag warnings are posted across 10 states, warning of high winds, low humidity and warm temperatures.
The High Park Fire is west of Fort Collins, has destroyed at least 181 homes, according to a statement posted on InciWeb, a U.S. multiagency fire response website.
"The assessment is still under way and this number will continue to grow," the statement said.
The blaze has moved through forests and neighborhoods, forcing thousands of evacuations and leaving a trail of destruction. It has claimed one life, a 62-year-old woman found dead in her burned home last week.
"It will be some time before this fire is out, but our challenge now is to make sure we do everything to contain the damage," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who oversees the Forest Service and toured the Colorado blaze.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said a tree struck by lightning more than a week ago sparked the mammoth blaze in his state.
Elsewhere in Colorado, firefighters are battling an 11,988-acre fire near Pagosa Springs that broke out last month. That blaze is 30% contained.
Meanwhile Sunday, a new fire broke out and quickly spread to 200 acres near Pueblo, forcing some evacuations of residents.
In New Mexico, the Whitewater Baldy complex has scorched more than 296,000 acres, the agriculture secretary said.
More than 3,200 fire personnel from across the United States are helping local departments battle the fire that began on May 16. The blaze was 80% contained as of Sunday.
CNN's Greg Morrison contributed to this report.
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