Video: One dead as Colo. wildfires continue to burn

  1. Closed captioning of: One dead as Colo. wildfires continue to burn

    >>> let us begin with that wildfire in colorado that's turned deadly. nbc's miguel almaguer is in bellev bellevue.

    >> it took the life of a 62-year-old woman, has charred more than 41,000 acres, and this morning is still burning out of control. with flames shooting 300 feet into the air, colorado 's deadly high park fire is through drought-stricken terrain, spreading up to0 feet a minute. the blaze moving so quickly a 62-year-d grandmother couldn't escape the inferno in time. a firefighter tried to check on her home.

    >> when he got up close enough to that residence, the area was engulfed in flames. he saw what he believed to be the structure in flames.

    >> reporter: with firefighters struggling to beat back the flames, this wind driven fire is moving in multiple directions. sparked by lightning saturday, now feeding on dry brush, lives and struck yours in danger. more than 100 destroyed, thousands of residents force freddie their homs.

    >> thank god for the firemen.

    >> they narrowly escaped the fire with their lives.

    >> we thought we were trapped. we didn't think we could get to the highway.

    >> with 600 firefighters dispatched to the front lines, resources across the country are being dispatched to colorado . much of this runaway fire is hop skochi scotching through back country. a u.s. senator said the need is dire. many on the ground are volunteers. some have lost their own homes.

    >> they could see their houses burning. as volunteers fightg to protect the school and community. you hear those stories and it's pretty profound.

    >> with billowing smoke column visible for hundreds of miles, a toxic plume seen from space, colorado 's fire is just one of 18 large wildfires burning in nine states. in new mexico more help is on the way from the air and on the ound. the fast moving little bear fire has torched tens of thousands of acres in the southern end of the state, hundreds evacuated, an estimated 35 structures destroyed. this morning much of the west a tinderbox, the region off to an early and deadly fire season. back here in colorado this fire is officially zero percent contained. the big concern is going to be the winds. firefighters are focused on protecting lives and structures. this blaze, matt, could burn for weeks.

    >> miguel almaguer. i'm sure al will be talking about the

updated 6/12/2012 4:14:27 PM ET 2012-06-12T20:14:27

Some progress was made in fighting Colorado's biggest wildfire, officials said Tuesday, but crews are expecting more hot, windy weather in the forested area where 118 homes and other structures were destroyed or damaged.

Some 5 percent of the High Park Fire has been contained, incident commander Bill Hahnenberg told reporters Tuesday morning.

Hundreds of evacuees nervously awaited word on whether they were among the unlucky ones. One person has died in the blaze -- one of 20 large fires across the West being fanned by dry winds.

After doubling the day before, the 43,433-acre wildfire 15 miles west of Fort Collins only grew by a few thousand acres on Monday and officials said part of its eastern flank had been contained.

The remains of a 62-year-old woman were found in the ashes of her cabin on Monday. She had received two notification calls to evacuate but, like many of the 2,600 people alerted, decided to say, NBC affiliate KUSA-TV reported.

Flames from the fire have reached 300 feet and the fire has spread as fast as 40 feet a minute, NBC's Miguel Almaguer reported from the incident command center in Bellvue, Colo.

Most of the destroyed and damaged homes were in the Rist Canyon area.

"It's pretty tough, people have lost their homes and everything they owned," Gov. John Hickenlooper said while visiting the area for a briefing. "Their world is very different than it was a day ago."

A dozen or so evacuees stayed at the local Red Cross shelter Monday but most are with friends, family or local motels.

The lightning-sparked wildfire is the largest Colorado has seen in 25 years. By Thursday, up to 300 more firefighters are expected to join the 500 already at the scene.

Colorado's congressional delegation said the need for more firefighting aircraft was "dire" and urged President Barack Obama to sign legislation passed by Congress last week that would allow the U.S. Forest Service to contract at least seven large air tankers to add to its fleet of 13 — which includes two on loan from Canada.

Hahnenberg said he worried about severe fire risk across Colorado "possibly until fall" unless July brings significant rain.

Story: West can expect more fires due to warming, researchers say

In New Mexico, crews also made progress against a lightning-sparked fire five miles from Ruidoso. Still, it burned through a few more thousand acres and is now up to 36,000 acres.

"The fire is still active and there is strong potential for extreme fire behavior," the incident command reported.

Hundreds of residents have had to flee and an estimated 35 structures were damaged or destroyed. That number's expected to grow once damage assessments are done.

Elsewhere in New Mexico, the largest wildfire in state history was 37 percent contained after burning through 278,000 acres.

Wildfires are also burning in other parts of Colorado and New Mexico as well as in Arizona, California, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.

Related: Summer forecast: hot and dry -- with western wildfires

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