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Wildfires burn out of control in New Mexico and Colorado

Ten air tankers and 400 firefighters were at the northern Colorado fire burning nearly 60 square miles in a mountainous area about 15 miles west of Fort Collins.

By Thomas PeipertAssociated Press / June 11, 2012

A helicopter flies through smoke after making a water drop on the High Park wildfire near Fort Collins, Colo., on June 11.

Ed Andrieski/AP

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BELLVUE, Colo.

Firefighters battling an out-of-control Colorado blaze significantly increased the number of structures destroyed or damaged to at least 118 on Monday as crews in New Mexico also ramped up efforts against a large out-of-control blaze.

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Wildfires rage across America each year. Firefighters use a number of tactics to fight them.

Colorado officials increased the damage estimate by 100 structures after crews got a better estimate of blackened areas where subdivisions once stood. Firefighters said they couldn't immediately say how many of the damaged structures were homes and how many were sheds, barns or other buildings.

The fire was first reported Saturday and comes as authorities say they're competing for resources that have been diluted by several wildfires across the West. The U.S. Forest Service added four tankers, including two from Canada, to its firefighting fleet last week following the crash of a tanker that killed two pilots at a southern Utah wildfire.

Ten air tankers and 400 firefighters were at the northern Colorado fire burning nearly 60 square miles in a mountainous area about 15 miles west of Fort Collins.

"Resources are thin right now," said Nick Christensen of the Larimer County Sheriff's Office. "We are trying to get more of everything at this point."

The wildfire west of Fort Collins has nearly doubled to 58 square miles, forcing hundreds of evacuations.

One person remains missing in the Colorado fire, which has spread smoke as far as central Nebraska, western Kansas and Texas.

In New Mexico, fire managers hoped to use a break in the weather to fight a 54-square-mile blaze near Ruidoso from the air. Winds grounded aircraft there Sunday. Residents in Ruidoso were told to prepare to evacuate if conditions worsen.

Hundreds of people have evacuated their homes and dozens of buildings have been destroyed as the fires spread rapidly, authorities said.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez announced late Sunday that she was ordering an additional 100 National Guard troops to assist with evacuations. They will be dispatched to shelters or highways where people have to be turned back, Ruidoso spokeswoman Kerry Gladden said.

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