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Wildfires Scorch Colorado, Other Western States

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June 25, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

This map shows the location of the major wildfires underway in the U.S. The High Park fire in northern Colorado is marked in red. Map courtesy of www.smokeybear.com.

Wildfires damaged more than a dozen Colorado homes over the weekend and forced evacuations for thousands more while shrouding top state tourist destinations in smoke and emptying hotels and campgrounds ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, The Associated Press reported.

Colorado is having its worst wildfire season in a decade, with more than a half dozen forest fires burning across the state's parched terrain. One of the newest fires, a blaze near Colorado Springs, grew to more than 3 square miles Sunday (June 24) after erupting just a day earlier and prompting evacuation orders for 11,000 residents and an unknown number of tourists.

The fire sent plumes of gray and white smoke over the area that obscured at times Pikes Peak.

While no homes were reported damaged in the Colorado Springs-area fire, a forest fire near Rocky Mountain National Park destroyed structures near the mountain community of Estes Park. The Larimer County Sheriff's Office said Sunday that 22 homes and 2 outbuildings had been burned.

The Estes Park fire destroyed vacation cabins and closed the most commonly used entrance to the park. Clouds of smoke blew toward the 102-year-old Stanley Hotel that inspired Stephen King to write "The Shining."

The High Park Fire is the second-largest wildfire and among the most expensive in Colorado's history. It has scorched more than 130 square miles and was just 45 percent contained on Sunday, The Denver Post reported.

With Colorado midway through its worst wildfire season in a decade, travelers have seen some of their favorite sites closed to the public, obscured by smoke and haze. Some travelers were awoken with evacuation orders.

Families planning whitewater rafting trips or visits to the stunning red-rock formations in Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs were instead spending their vacations passing out bottled water and setting up cots in evacuee centers.

Elsewhere, firefighters contended with windy and heat as they battled wildfires in Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

  • In Utah, a 15-square-mile blaze around Fountain Green in Sanpete County was threatening more than 359 permanent structures and 213 mobile homes and travel trailers in four rural subdivisions, forcing about 1,000 people to flee. BLM says the human-caused fire erupted Saturday afternoon. Officials report progress on a 9-square-mile wildfire around Saratoga Springs, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City.
  • In Montana, two wildfires were burning in the southwest part of the state, including the fast-moving Antelope Fire, which started Saturday afternoon about 10 miles north of Whitehall and had grown to 462 acres on Sunday. About 100 firefighters were battling that blaze.
  • In Arizona, the U.S. Forest Service said Sunday that containment against the Pecos Fire, just outside of Young, is up to 50 percent and remains under 12,000 acres. Officials say many of the firefighting resources are being released to their home units or to other fire assignments.
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