Nightly News   |  June 24, 2013

Three fires combine into giant Colorado blaze

High winds and hot temperatures are stoking flames in southwestern Colorado where a colossal fire is burning out of control. Officials say a spruce bark beetle infestation is partly to blame. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports.

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>>> a firestorm in southwest colorado . almost 1,000 people trying to contain a series of wildfires that have combined into the largest single fire in the country. it's in south farc, colorado . the place featured in this striking photo from last week. gabe gutierrez is on the front lines for us tonight.

>> reporter: today in southwestern colorado . hot temperatures and high winds fanned a growing colossal fire burning out of control. first look behind the fire line. known as the west fork complex, a combination of three fires, the blaze spread to about 76,000 acres, under an am house in supermoon, the flames doubled in size. threatening popular summer destinations.

>> never seen anything like this. it's scary and very concerned for what it's going to do to the land.

>> come on, girl.

>> reporter: kim and ken have lived in south fork for seven years, they evacuated last week.

>> the high winds , the beetle kill, the drought, all have the potential for a serious event and that's what we've got.

>> reporter: officials are partly blaming an infestation of the spruce bark beetle for this year's fire explosion in colorado .

>> 75% of spruce have been infested. almost all of those are dead. down to 5 inches in diameter.

>> reporter: the spruce beetle devastated almost a million acres since the year 2000 , killing trees and limbs, making easier for them to ignite.

>> things continuing to dry out and red-flag type situations, high winds , low humidity, and it just takes off.

>> reporter: the cost of fighting this fire has surpassed $2 million, and now the military is joining the fight. but so far, south fork has been spared. no injuries.

>> while there's a lot of encouraging news, there is still a significant amount of risk.

>> reporter: this family worries they will lose not only their home, but their forest.

>> it's just not going to be anything for a while, you know.

>> reporter: a state that has seen big fires before, this one is being called unprecedented. unprecedented because of how fast it has grown. firefighters can't catch a break. temperatures expected to rise.

>> reporter: gabe gutierrez, outside south fork ,