Colorado wildfire burns 92 square miles

Tuesday , June 19, 2012 - 1:13 PM

P. Solomon Banda

BELLVUE, Colo.— Firefighters are making progress on a 92-square-mile wildfire in northern Colorado that has destroyed more homes than any other in state history, but more residents were warned Tuesday to be ready to leave because of a spot fire that ignited near the main fire.

The large blaze west of Fort Collins was 50 percent contained after firefighters labored in temperatures in the 90s to extend lines around the fire Monday. Expected strong winds didn’t materialize, but gusts of around 30 mph were forecast Tuesday along with more hot, dry weather.

The fire already has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9. Incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said it could be weeks or even months before it’s finally controlled.

The wildfire is one of several across the West forcing people to flee, including another blaze in Colorado that has driven out nuns living in a monastery, Boy Scouts at camp and residents of about 150 homes.

The Protection of the Holy Virgin Monastery evacuated as a precaution Sunday after the fire started in the foothills west of Colorado Springs.

A nun who returned to feed the chickens at the remote monastery Tuesday said the fire was about two miles from the site. She said sacred items from the chapel, including a chalice, along with insurance papers and historical documents were removed Sunday as slurry bombers flew over the property.

That fire has burned nearly 2 square miles, and fire managers said it still has the potential to grow in an area where logs are drier than pine boards from a lumber yard.

In California, firefighters got a break from predicted overnight winds and were able to contain 75 percent of a 900-acre wildfire in mountainous eastern San Diego County, officials said Tuesday.



Despite high wind warnings, it remained calm around the fire east of Campo, so firefighters increased containment from 30 percent to 75 percent, said Capt. Mike Mohler of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

More than 800 firefighters were battling the rural blaze, and full containment was expected Wednesday night.

At least one house has burned and 150 homes have been evacuated. Evacuation orders remained in effect Tuesday because of road conditions and emergency equipment in the area, Mohler said.

Elsewhere:

— In Idaho, a fast-moving wildfire near Mountain Home destroyed five homes and several outbuildings Monday evening. The blaze quickly moved through the area as Southwest Idaho remained under a red flag warning Sunday and Monday because of high temperatures, low humidity and high winds — conditions conducive to explosive and destructive fires.

— In Wyoming, more resources were being sent to help battle a 2,000-acre wildfire in the Medicine Bow National Forest. The fire was spotted Sunday and tripled in size Monday because of strong winds. Residents of widely scattered ranches and cabins in the area have been advised to evacuate.

— In Nevada, a 10,000-acre wildfire north of Ely was 15 percent contained. Aerial mapping showed the fire was smaller than thought.

— In New Mexico, firefighters were taking advantage of favorable weather conditions to battle a wildfire that has destroyed 242 homes and businesses. More than 1,100 firefighters remained in Ruidoso as they fight to hold the Little Bear Fire that is now 60 percent contained. Another fire broke out Monday and burned three structures along a 5-mile stretch of the San Juan River in far northwestern New Mexico. The fire, burning east of Bloomfield, is 30 percent contained.

The fire in the Gila Wilderness, already the largest in state history, grew another 1,000 acres to 463 square miles and is 80 percent contained.

— In Arizona, firefighters were building containment lines around a 3,700-acre blaze on the Tonto National Forest to try to protect electric transmission lines that provide power to the state’s major metropolitan areas.

— In northwest Nebraska, a fire burning on an estimated 3,000 acres has been partially contained.

— In Hawaii, the upcountry Kula fire was declared 90 percent contained Tuesday morning. The wildfire burned six acres and damaged three homes.

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