More homes lost in Colorado wildfire as blaze rages on

DENVER, June 18 Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:56pm EDT

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DENVER, June 18 (Reuters) - Eight more homes were lost in a Colorado wildfire that is the state's most destructive on record and which continued to rage dangerously close to a residential subdivision as winds stoked the flames, fire officials said on Monday.

The number of homes destroyed in the so-called High Park Fire raging 15 miles northwest of Fort Collins now stands at 189, said John Schulz, spokesman for the Larimer County Sheriff's Office.

The tally rose when wind gusts up to 50 miles an hour, combined with 90-degree temperatures and single-digit humidity levels fanned the flames on Sunday, incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said.

"Yesterday Mother Nature was pretty tough on us, and I'm not happy about her behaving that way on Father's Day," Hahnenberg told reporters.

The fire did not jump containment lines crews have cut around 50 percent of the fire perimeter, but torched structures that previously were untouched by the flames, he said.

A Reuters photographer at the northwest flank of the fire reported open flames at least a mile long arcing from treetop to treetop close to a subdivision that borders the Roosevelt National Forest.

"Steep terrain, limited access, and the presence of dense stands of beetle-killed trees to the west of the fire area are of concern to fire officials," the federal fire incident command center said in a statement, referring to the area that is home to the subdivision.

A column of smoke from Sunday's blow-up was visible some 65 miles away from the blaze in Denver, and a smoky haze from the fire continued to hug Colorado's urban corridor as it has for most of the 10 days the fire has raged.

The lightning-sparked blaze has charred 58,770 acres, fire managers said. It is the third-largest wildfire recorded in the state, and is blamed for the death of a 62-year-old grandmother whose remains were found in her burned-out cabin last week.

Although winds were calmer on Monday, temperatures hovered near 100 degrees and fire activity increased in the late afternoon.

Meanwhile in Wyoming, a swift-moving wildfire in dry timber, brush and grasslands in the Medicine Bow National Forest in central Wyoming prompted sheriff's deputies to go door-to-door on Monday to urge the evacuation of about 50 rural residences, authorities said.

The cause of the blaze, which broke out on Sunday and charred more than 1,200 acres amid high winds on Monday, is unknown, a dispatcher with the Converse County Sheriff's Office said. She said it was unclear how many people heeded the evacuation advised for scattered cabins and ranches about 35 miles southwest of Douglas. (Additional reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

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