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1 missing in Colorado wildfire

Wildfire consumes 20,000 acres, forces hundreds to flee

LAPORTE, Colo., | June 11, 2012

"Evacuation is paramount"

—Tom DeMint

One person was missing near Fort Collins, Colo., as a roaring wildfire consuming more than 20,000 tinder-dry acres forced hundreds to flee, officials said.

Crews searched for the unidentified person whose home was destroyed by the uncontained High Park fire raging 15 miles northwest of Fort Collins. More than 250 firefighters battled the firestorm whose smoky plumes turned the sun blood red and blotted out the Rocky Mountains.

The person "might not have made it," Poudre Fire Authority Chief Tom DeMint told The [Fort Collins] Coloradoan.

By early Monday, more than 2,200 evacuation calls had been made ordering people from homes in the Poudre, Rist, Redstone and Mill canyons surrounding the fast-growing blaze.

Most evacuations Sunday went smoothly, but some residents refused to leave, DeMint said

"Evacuation is paramount," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "Follow those orders."

The fire is one of three big wildfires blackening more than 50,000 acres in three states. The other two are New Mexico and Wyoming.

The Little Bear fire at Lincoln National Forest near Ruidoso, N.M., doubled in size Sunday to more than at 26,000 acres, or 40 square miles, officials said. It remained uncontained.

Ruidoso was hit by a devastating flash flood from a hurricane four years ago, killing one person and causing $20 million in damage.

The Guernsey State Park Fire near Wheatland, Wyo., blackened more than 4,000 acres, or nearly 6.5 square miles.

Acting Wyoming Gov. Jim Anderson activated the state National Guard to assist firefighters in trying to control the blaze.

Colorado's fire, whose size is 1 1/2 times the size of Fort Collins, had "no hope for containment," Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said.

"Mother Nature is driving this fire," he said.

The inferno was to receive a Type 1 Incident designation Monday -- the highest level available -- making it eligible for national air support, including military, and funding, officials said.

"We're going to throw everything we can at this," said Gov. John Hickenlooper, who visited evacuation and command centers Sunday.

"But nature is our biggest resource," he said. "More equipment would help, but we can only do so much to fight a fire of this size. Nature is conspiring against us."

The fire was reported about 6 a.m. MDT (8 a.m. EDT) Saturday as a 2-acre blaze. It blew up about noon.

By 10 p.m. Saturday, it had consumed more than 8,000 acres.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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