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Wildfires burn in several western US states

Colo. High Park fire only 20% contained

FORT COLLINS, Colo. | June 16, 2012

"I knew this was a big, big fire"

— Nick Christensen

Officials in Colorado said they still had a long way to go in their battle against a daunting wildfire that has destroyed more than 100 homes.

The toll from the High Park fire west of Fort Collins Saturday was 112 residences and 54,230 acres of timber with only 20 percent containment.

"I knew this was a big, big fire," Larimer County sheriff's executive officer Nick Christensen told The Denver Post. "I was hopeful it was going to be a lower number. But it's not, and it is going to grow."

Firefighters said more homes and communications sites remained threatened. A fire weather watch was in effect for the Fort Collins area with low humidity, unseasonable warm temperatures and, most ominously, winds increasing through the weekend with gusts up to 50 miles per hour possible.

A fire weather warning was in effect for all of Utah Saturday. Firefighters told the Salt Lake Tribune they had the upper hand on fires that had been burning in the state and were hopeful the large number of personnel already in the field would keep a lid on any new fires.

Crews also had their hands full with the Poco fire in Arizona. The blaze had consumed 1,500 acres and was 15 percent contained in the heavy timber of the Tonto National Forest.

There were several road closures in the mountainous area but no structures were threatened and reinforcements were arriving on the fire lines. "Resources are readily available because we aren't competing for resources with many other fires in the Southwest," incident commander Dave Ramirez told The Arizona Republic.

In New Mexico, the huge Whitewater-Baldy fire topped 290,000 acres but was 63 percent contained with isolated torching of trees reported, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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