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.
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