Hundreds flee Colo., New Mexico wildfires

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LAPORTE, Colo. -- Wildfires that have spread quickly in parched forests in Colorado and New Mexico have forced hundreds of people from their homes and the evacuation of wolves from a sanctuary.

The Colorado fire, in a mountainous area 15 miles west of Fort Collins, grew to 22 square miles in about a day and has destroyed or damaged 18 structures.

In southern New Mexico, strong winds grounded aircraft fighting a 40-square-mile fire near the mountain community of Ruidoso. Crews were building a fire line around the blaze, which started Friday and has damaged or destroyed 36 structures.

In Colorado, the fire sent up heavy smoke, obscuring the sun and creating an eerie, orange dusk at midday. The smoke drifted into the Denver area and as far away as central Nebraska, western Kansas and Texas.

The New Mexico fire is smaller than the Whitewater-Baldy fire, but it's more concerning because it started closer to homes, said Dan Ware of the New Mexico State Forestry Division. He said the number of Ruidoso evacuees was in the hundreds. Karen Takai, speaking for the Ruidoso fire crews, said Capitan, about 5 miles to the northeast, and other communities could also face evacuation.

Elsewhere, fire had blackened 6 square miles in Wyoming's Guernsey State Park, forcing 500 to 1,000 visitors to flee. Two other fires were being fought in southern Utah.-- AP

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