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Smoke billows from the High Park Fire west of Fort Collins, Colo., on Monday, June 18, 2012. The wildfire has now burned about 90 square miles and destroyed more than 180 homes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Colorado firefighters get break from hot weather

Evacuation » Crews plan to be “agressive“ as temperatures drop 20 degrees.

By DAN ELLIOTT

The Associated Press

First Published Jun 20 2012 12:49 pm • Last Updated Jun 20 2012 05:37 pm

Bellvue, Colo. » Firefighters took advantage of a break in the heat Wednesday to ramp up their attack against wildfire burning on more than 100 square miles in northern Colorado.

After three straight days of gusty winds and temperatures in the 90s, temperatures were expected to be about 20 degrees cooler.

At a glance

Wildfire update

In Wyoming » nearly 300 firefighters are battling a wildfire burning in remote and mountainous area of the Medicine Bow National Forest that has burned about 4 square miles since Sunday. An 800-acre wildfire that began Tuesday in Wyoming and crossed over into Colorado is 70 percent contained.

In New Mexico » a fire that has destroyed 242 homes and businesses in southern New Mexico was 60 percent contained. A fire in the Gila Wilderness, the largest in state history, is at 463 square miles and is 80 percent contained.

In Arizona » firefighters built 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. The fire was 15 percent contained Tuesday. In Nevada » a 10,000-acre wildfire north of Ely was 15 percent contained.

In Hawaii » a 6-acre fire in Maui that damaged three homes was contained late Tuesday and residents were allowed back home.

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"We’ve been patient through those red flag conditions. Today we’re going to be aggressive," said Bill Hahnenberg, who is leading the fight against the 65,738-acre fire west of Fort Collins.

Firefighters were working on extending containment lines around the fire but also focusing on protecting homes in unburned pockets of land within the perimeter. Some residents were also being allowed back to their homes, but hundreds remained evacuated.

Conditions are also better at a wildfire burning on nearly 2 square miles near Lake George, which is 23 percent contained.

A fire that broke out Tuesday in northwestern Colorado spread to about 3 square miles, or 2,000 acres, forcing some evacuations in a subdivision, but residents were able to return that night. Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz said the fire is believed to have started from a cigarette thrown from a vehicle.

The largest Colorado blaze west of Fort Collins, was 55 percent contained and 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.

In California, a 300-acre fire near Sequoia National Park is 35 percent contained, U.S. Forest Service officials said Wednesday.

Two hundred firefighters are battling the blaze on the northwest side of Lake Isabella and 200 more are on their way, said Forest Service spokeswoman Cindy Thill.

About 160 structures, including homes and cabins, and a campground near the park have been evacuated.


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No structures have burned and no injuries have been reported, Thill said.

Residents in San Diego County, meanwhile, have been allowed to home near a 995-acre fire. Full containment was expected Wednesday night or Thursday morning.



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