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Gusty winds, hot temps fuel western fires

Six U.S. Western states are under critical fire warnings

FORT COLLINS, Colo. | June 18, 2012

Gusty winds fanned the flames of the High Park fire that has burned 56,000 acres and destroyed at least 181 homes in Colorado, officials said.

At least one person, a woman, had been killed in the wildfire near Fort Collins. Thousands of people were evacuated.

Crews with about 1,700 personnel battled the fire, which was 45 percent contained early Monday, forestry officials said.

Hot, dry conditions worsened the fire threat.

Firefighters in Colorado also fought a 12,000-acre fire near Pagosa Springs and a 200-acre fire near Pueblo.

Six U.S. Western states in the Great Basin, central Rockies and parts of the central High Plains were under critical fire warnings Monday due to the hot, dry and windy conditions, the National Weather Service said. Red flag warnings were also in effect for northwest Arizona and portions of central Alaska.

Temperatures Monday in the High Park fire region were expected to top 90 degrees, with winds reaching 50 mph on ridge tops and in Poudre Canyon, the weather service said.

Fire crews continued containment and cleanup efforts in New Mexico, where the massive Whitewater Baldy fire had burned more than 296,000 acres. The fire was 80 percent contained.

In Nevada, crews worked a fire that had spread over 22,000 acres on the east side of the Schell Mountain Range, about 20 miles north of Ely.

The fire burned in steep, rugged terrain, and was fueled by trees, sagebrush and grass, officials said.

One home had been destroyed.

Fire officials said the wildfire began Saturday when a Forest Service-prescribed burn jumped out of control.

In Arizona, the Poco fire was burning 6 miles northeast of Young and had covered about 3,200 acres since Thursday.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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