From: Keith Coffman, Reuters, DENVER
Published April 4, 2011 06:21 AM

Wildfires rage across five Southwest states

Gale force winds and drought spawned raging wildfires across five states of the parched Southwest on Sunday, damaging dozens of homes and businesses and forcing a Kansas town to evacuate, authorities said.


Wildfires were reported in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Kansas. In some cases, firefighters were struggling to bring them under control amid high and shifting winds.

West of Fort Collins, Colorado a fire blackened 4,500 acres, destroyed 15 homes, and residents of another 336 homes remained under evacuation orders, authorities said.

The blaze, burning in mountain terrain about 65 miles northwest of Denver, is five-percent contained, Reghan Cloudman, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service, told Reuters.

Wind gusts in excess of 90 miles per hour fanned the flames, which grew from 20 acres Saturday to more than 4,500 acres overnight, forcing the early-morning evacuations.

Most of Colorado was under threat from wildfires this weekend because of a lack of precipitation, high winds and record warm temperatures.

A snow storm moved into the area on Sunday, aiding the 250 firefighters battling the blaze.

"It (snowfall) has calmed the fire down a bit, but there are still many hot spots," Cloudman said.

Two air tankers and a helicopter have been called in to make fire retardant and water drops, she said.

High winds and extreme drought across Texas fed fires that scorched more than 7,000 acres on Sunday.

Photo credit:  University of Maryland Department of Geography

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