Colorado wildfire smoke blows into SE Wyo.
(CBS/AP) LOVELAND, Colo. - Smoke from a massive wildfire in northern Colorado was blowing into southeast Wyoming and smudging the skies above Cheyenne on Wednesday.
Overnight winds from the southwest blew smoke into Wyoming, leaving a pungent odor in the air around the state's capital city, which is 50 miles north of the fire. The smoke had drifted south to Denver on Tuesday but skies there were clear a day later.
The fire 15 miles west of Fort Collins has burned 73 square miles, destroyed over 100 structures and forced hundreds of people from their homes.
The evacuees face extended displacement and uncertainty though some may find out Wednesday whether their houses are still standing.
Evacuee Jan Gueswel still swears she'd never live anywhere else.
"I would rather live in Poudre Park than in an apartment where I don't know what my neighbor is doing," said Gueswel, who fled her home with her husband, Carl, as northern Colorado's High Park Fire exploded.
She and others say they'd long ago accepted the year-round risks of fire in mountain country.
"You move out east, you got the tornadoes. You live in the mountains, you got the fires," said Denise Haines, whose family loaded up 142 alpacas and llamas from their mountain farm and took them to the Larimer County Fairgrounds.
Many residents in the mountains of southern New Mexico faced heartbreak: A 56-square-mile fire threatening the village of Ruidoso damaged or destroyed at least 224 homes and other structures. Workers found heaps of burned metal and debris on home sites hit hardest by the Little Bear fire.
"It's truly heartbreaking to see the damage done to this beautiful part of the country," New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said.
Martinez declared a state of emergency for Lincoln County, CBS affiliate KRQE Albuquerque reported. Fire officials say a containment line has been set up six miles northwest of Ruidoso's center. Air crews were slated to fly over the burn area as of Wednesday morning to assess the fire size.
With at least 19 large fires burning in nine states, President Barack Obama called Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to assure him that the federal government was ready to provide personnel, equipment and emergency grants for states battling fire. Obama tried to reach Martinez, but her office said poor reception in the fire zone kept the two from connecting.
For Hickenlooper, the wildfire has been one of the largest wildfires in the state he has ever seen. "In heavily-forested land they had trucks on there within an hour when it was spotted, so that's pretty fast," he said, as reported by CBS Station KCNC Colorado.
KCNC also reported that to some people the response may not have been appeared as fast, to which authorities responded that this situation is different. "I know from the citizens' standpoint it can be confusing because you don't necessarily see the boots on the ground and the personnel or even the single-engine air tanker in the air depending on what your vantage point is," said Nick Christensen from the Larimer County Sheriff's Office.
A 62-year-old woman perished in her cabin in Colorado's High Park Fire, which was caused by lightning and has destroyed more than 100 structures. More than 600 firefighters labored to build containment lines as air tankers and helicopters focused on protecting buildings.
Gueswel expressed her gratitude.
"I don't want anybody to die for my house," she said. "I love my house, but I don't want to die for it and I don't want anyone else to die for it."
In Wyoming, where crews made gains on two wildfires, state forester Bill Crapser said firefighters throughout the West are coping with drought, stands of trees killed by bark beetles, more residents in forested areas and a decades-old buildup of fuel -- the legacy of quickly stamping out fires, rather than letting them burn as nature intended.
Forest residents need to do their part by clearing their property of fuel, he said.
"That's a tough thing to sell to a lot of people, because they move out there so they can have pine trees leaning over the top of their house," Crapser said. "That's part of the allure of it. But it's also part of the danger of it."
Across the West:
-- California: A wildfire that briefly threatened homes in Kern County was contained.
-- Colorado: About 1,000 firefighters and 100 engines were at the High Park Fire on Wednesday. It has cost $3 million to fight.
-- New Mexico: Nearly 1,000 firefighters and more than 200 National Guardsmen on the 56-square-mile Little Bear fire. Containment is 35 percent. More than 500 firefighters bolstered lines around the Gila fire, the country's largest at 438 square miles.
-- Utah: Two wildfires blackened 4,000 acres in Fishlake National Forest in southern Utah.
-- Wyoming: A 4-square-mile blaze at Guernsey State Park is 80 percent contained and a 13-square-mile fire in Medicine Bow National Forest is fully contained. However, the risk of new fires was high in much of the state because of dry air and expected strong winds.
-- Arizona: A 2,600-acre wildfire in the Tonto National Forest northwest of Phoenix was 40 percent contained. It's not threatening any buildings.
-- Utah: A preliminary report found that an air tanker that crashed while fighting a wildfire in southern Utah, killing both pilots, hit mountainous terrain about 700 feet off the flight path of its lead plane on June 3.
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