Hundreds evacuated as Colo., N.M. wildfires grow
(CBS/AP) Growing wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico have forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes.
A blaze burning in northern Colorado on Sunday has grown to 22 square miles within about 24 hours and destroyed or damaged 18 structures.
A fire in southern New Mexico that began Friday is now listed at 40 square miles due to better mapping. It has destroyed at least 20 structures.
The New Mexico fire is much closer to homes than the Whitewater-Baldy fire, the largest fire in the state's history. It's also still burning.
No containment lines have been built around the latest Colorado or New Mexico fires.
High Park Fire
CBS Station KCNC reports that the High Park Fire west of Fort Collins continues to burn and threatens populated areas.
The fire broke out Saturday in the Paradise Park area of Larimer County and by mid-Sunday morning it had grown to approximately 14,000 acres, according to officials. Eighteen structures have been damaged or destroyed by the fire, and others are threatened.
Hundreds of residents are affected. The American Red Cross has evacuation centers set up in Laporte and Loveland.
"You could tell the fire was fairly close, probably within a quarter mile," said Darren Pope, who had to evacuate his home at about 3 a.m. Sunday. "The sky was on fire. The whole ridge line was on fire."
One firefighter was hospitalized for heat exhaustion on Saturday, when temperatures were in the 90s for much of the day. Firefighters were greeted on Sunday with cooler weather as they battle the fire on steep, rocky terrain.
Gov. John Hickenlooper came to the scene Sunday morning to meet with evacuees and to help officials. He said roughly one-third of the country's heavy fire retardant equipment is in Colorado to help fight the fire.
"We're going to throw everything at it that we can," he said. "The most important resources we have is nature. We'd like the wind to calm down; obviously the humidity is quite low - that's not good.
When you've got stiff wind and dry conditions like this, it's very tough, when nature is conspiring against you like this," Hickenlooper told reporters.
Winds were strong on Saturday and continued to blow Sunday morning. A red flag warning was in effect in the fire area until 10 p.m. Sunday.
The Larimer County Sheriff's office is working on reports of people missing in connection with the fire, but no reports have been confirmed. Another concern is that communication problems are a possibility as the fire is threatening some cell towers.
KUNC, which provides public radio to listeners in much of Northern Colorado, was knocked off the air because of the fire, according to their website.
"We are sad to report that our main transmitter site at Buckhorn Mountain is threatened by the High Park Fire. KUNC is currently off the air on our main frequency 91.5 FM."
The fire also abbreviated a wedding reception Saturday. KCNC reports smoke from the High Park Fire poured over the Sky Corral Lodge in Bellvue where Mary Brammlett and Ben Messerly were exchanging vows.
"The (lodge) director said, 'If I ring the bell three times or if I'm just ringing it like crazy because I'm panicking, everybody needs to get in their vehicles and evacuate as fast as possible,'" wedding guest Mike Green told KCNC.
Little Bear Fire
A wildfire burning in the mountain community of Ruidoso that has destroyed at least 20 structures and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people has burned more than 26,000 acres.
Dan Ware, a spokesman with New Mexico State Forestry, says that infrared mapping done overnight shows that the Little Bear Fire has grown to more than 26,000 acres, or 40 square miles.
That's more than double Saturday's estimate of 10,000 acres, but fire crews say the growth in size is due to more accurate mapping.
Ware says that winds are expected to be a bit calmer Sunday but that the steep terrain and thick vegetation near homes will prove to be challenging for fire crews.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez plans to visit Ruidoso on Sunday to get the latest developments and attend a meeting updating the public on firefighting efforts.
There is no containment on the blaze.
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