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The High Park Fire in Colorado is now up to 65,738 acres, and is only about 55 percent contained. As of Tuesday, June 18, the estimated cost of the blaze is $17.2 million. Temperatures warmer than normal temperatures and strong winds during Father’s Day weekend made containing the blaze even harder. More than 1,700 personnel are trying to contain the fire.
The fire began June 9, when lightning struck the dry area. It has since destroyed 189 homes and caused thousands to evacuate. So far only one person has died, a 62-year-old woman in her home. There is the possibility that some evacuees will be allowed back to their homes shortly, but they must be prepared to evacuate again if necessary.
However, hopes are up since the weather on June 20th and 21st was a little cooler, although temperatures were predicted to rise again on Friday June 22nd. According to Brett Haberstick, the fire information officer, “the expected winds were not as strong as they were. The amount of fire activity in the big timber on the western perimeter was not as extreme. We have a lot less smoke and a lot better working conditions for the crews.”
Bill Hahenberg, the fire incident commander, stated about the better conditions, “We are going to be very aggressive. We have an opportunity with these conditions.”
Several other fires have begun across the Western United States. In Pagosa Springs there is a fire that began last month that was also caused by lightning. The fire has destroyed 13,000 acres and only 30 percent is contained.
Pueblo saw another fire start on Father’s Day, June 17, that is now at 200 acres in size, and has residents preparing to evacuate.
New Mexico also has its own blaze around Whitewater Baldy. So far the fire has burned 296,000 acres according to the Secretary of Agriculture. There are 3,200 personnel from across the United States who have been helping control this fire. As of Monday, 82 percent of the fire was contained.
North Carolina has also been experiencing fires, with a wildfire tearing through Croatan National Forest, destroying 21,248 acres. Six thousand of those acres were set on fire intentionally under a controlled blaze to prevent the wildfire from spreading in that particular direction. The nearby town of New Bern has been experiencing thick smoke which is reducing visibility.
According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration the number of fires in the United States is below average although the at-risk regions are still dry and warm. May 2011 was the second warmest May ever on record. May 2011 was also extremely dry throughout the Southwest. These dry and warm conditions in May are the reasons why these areas in Colorado and New Mexico have been burning so uncontrollably and quickly.