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Firefighters making progress on Colorado wildfire, while new one flares

More evacuations were called for after a wildfire on private land in northwestern Colorado spread.

By Ed AndrieskiAssociated Press / June 20, 2012

The Springer Fire smolders Tuesday, June 19, near its origin in the Elevenmile Canyon area near Lake George, Colo. The fire was 10 percent contained as of Tuesday morning and firefighters hope the winds would stay low throughout the day as they battled the 1,100-acre fire.

Christian Murdock/The Colorado Springs Gazette/AP

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Bellvue, Colo.

Firefighters are making progress on a 93-square-mile wildfire in northern Colorado that has destroyed more homes than any other in state history, but more residents were warned Tuesday to be ready to leave because of a spot fire that ignited near the main fire.

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Meanwhile a fire burning on an estimated 250 acres of private land west of Craig was threatening structures and prompted an unknown number of evacuations Tuesday night, Bureau of Land Management spokesman David Boyd said.

The larger blaze west of Fort Collins was 55 percent contained after firefighters labored in temperatures in the 90s to extend lines around the fire Monday. Cooler temperatures were expected Wednesday, with a chance of isolated thunderstorms Thursday.

The fire already has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9. Incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said it could be weeks or even months before it's finally controlled.

The wildfire is one of several across the West forcing people to flee, including another blaze in Colorado that has driven out nuns living in a monastery, Boy Scouts at camp and residents of about 150 homes.

The Protection of the Holy Virgin Monastery was evacuated as a precaution Sunday after the fire started in the foothills west of Colorado Springs.

A nun who returned to feed the chickens at the remote monastery Tuesday said the fire was about two miles from the site. She said sacred items from the chapel, including a chalice, along with insurance papers and historical documents were removed Sunday as slurry bombers flew over the property.

The fire has burned nearly 2 square miles, and fire managers said it still has the potential to grow in an area where logs are drier than pine boards from a lumber yard.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said Tuesday his agency is adding four heavy helicopters to its firefighting fleet. Two S-61s owned by Siller Helicopters of Yuba City, Calif.; an S-64 Skycrane owned by Erickson Air Crane of Central Point, Ore.; and an S-70 owned by Firehawk Helicopters of Leesburg, Fla., will be available for any fire in the U.S., he said.

In California, firefighters were able to contain 75 percent of a nearly 1,000-acre wildfire in mountainous eastern San Diego County despite gusty winds that kicked up Tuesday and low humidity levels.

It remained calm around the fire east of Campo from Monday night into Tuesday despite wind warnings, and firefighters were able to increase containment from 30 percent to 75 percent, said Capt. Mike Mohler of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

More than 900 firefighters were battling the rural blaze Tuesday afternoon. Full containment was expected Wednesday night.

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