Image: Hewlett Wildfire
Ed Andrieski  /  AP
Fire burns through trees in Poudre Canyon northwest of Fort Collins, Colo., on Thursday.
updated 5/18/2012 2:34:12 PM ET 2012-05-18T18:34:12

Firefighters at a wildfire burning about 12 square miles in northern Colorado expect warm stormy weather will make their work more difficult Friday, but they hope to be able to allow evacuated residents to return home soon.

Meanwhile, separate blazes in northern and southern New Mexico cast a haze of smoke over the state but have not caused property damage or prompted evacuations, authorities said.

A wind-fueled fire in western Utah temporarily closed a state highway Thursday evening, but wasn't threatening any structures.

In California, firefighters are working to control a 100-acre blaze that burned across the border into San Diego County from Mexico, where it has scorched thousands of acres.

The Colorado fire is burning in a drought-stricken area of steep, rocky terrain scattered with dry ponderosa pine trees, grass and shrubs.

In Colorado, about 20 miles northwest of Fort Collins, 15 homes remain under evacuation orders but the residents of 65 other homes have been allowed to return. Firefighters were able to burn out areas near those homes Thursday to serve as a buffer. The fire also moved into an area burned by a 2004 wildfire, which helped slow its growth.

Fire managers hope to allow the remaining evacuees to return in the evening, although they said the residents would have to remain ready to leave again.

The fire is about 11 percent contained. Two planes and five helicopters were also available to fight the fire. No homes or buildings have been damaged. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze.

Gov. John Hickenlooper declared a disaster emergency on Friday to allow $3 million of the state's disaster emergency fund to be spent fighting the fire.

The blaze was one of several burning in the West. A fire in northern Arizona that led to the evacuation of Crown King, a historic mining town, has grown to nearly 16 square miles. Gusts going at 40 mph and low humidity have made the fire difficult for crews to contain. It has destroyed three homes and a trailer.

A wildfire that burned thousands of acres in Mexico before jumping the border into California was 60 percent contained Friday.

The Colorado fire was approaching the city of Greeley's Milton Seaman Reservoir, but city officials said Greeley's water supply hasn't been affected.

Officials think human activity started the blaze near Poudre Canyon, which was first reported Monday, but they are still investigating.

The area has seen several large fires in the past 12 years, including a fire started by an abandoned campfire in 2000 that scorched 16.5 square miles and destroyed 22 buildings. The Picnic Rock fire in 2004 started by a couple burning trash scorched 8,900 acres near the same area of this week's fire, destroyed a home and prompted the evacuation of 150 homes.

Area resident John Hasler said Thursday was his second time being told to evacuate in less than 10 years, and he doesn't plan to leave.

"I was more worried when that (2004) fire was coming through here," Hasler said. "It had already burned around 10,000 acres and destroyed a home and was moving with some force when it was heading here."

Hasler's home survived that fire. He said his home on 40 acres is now surrounded by a lawn of closely cropped grass. He said he feels confident he would be able to extinguish a fire with his garden hose.

In Arizona, Forest Service spokeswoman Michelle Fidler said that crews were focusing on slowing the advance of the near 8,200-acre blaze and prevent it from reaching communication towers.

Most of the 350 residents of the mountain community of Crown King, about 85 miles north of Phoenix, had already cleared out by Thursday.

The fire prompted an evacuation order Sunday and has destroyed three homes and a trailer. The blaze started at a home, but investigators were still working to determine the cause.

The Arizona Republic reported that the blaze was burning within five miles of Pine Flats, a hamlet of about 40 properties, and firefighters hustled to set a defensive line, clearing the area of trees and other fuel near homes that could be threatened.

Other fires dotted Arizona but did not threaten any structures, authorities said.

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