Hot, Windy Weather Drives Colo. Wildfires

By: CBS News, Posted by Chelsey Moran
By: CBS News, Posted by Chelsey Moran

(CBS News) LOS ANGELES - In the American southwest, at least 18 large wildfires are burning more than 100,000 acres across four states. In Colorado, huge flames are forcing people from a popular vacation area.

Thick smoke filled the sky as three separate fires combined to form a massive blaze that has scorched nearly 83-square miles in southwest Colorado.

Several mountain communities are threatened. More than 400 people were evacuated from the tourist town of South Fork, Colorado on Friday.

Firefighter Laura McConnell described the fast-moving flames: "The fire had made roughly a 12,000-acre run. That's about 18.7-square miles. So that's a pretty big run."

As many as 16 fires are burning across Colorado. The East Peak fire burned 13 structures and forced Donna Taylor from her home in the town of Walsenburg.

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"You don't know what you're gonna go back to," she said, "and are you too old to start over again."

Some of the fires were sparked by lightning.The flames were driven by hot, windy weather, and fueled by dry trees killed in a beetle infestation.

"We continue under red flag warnings, so we have the potential for extreme fire growth," said Dan Dallas, incident commander on the Lime Gulch fire.

The hot dry conditions are expected to continue through the middle of next week -- with no rain in the forecast.

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