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Colorado faces worst wildfire season in a decade (+video)

In Colorado, at least 248 homes have been destroyed this summer. More than 6,000 people have been evacuated this weekend near Colorado Springs.

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Also over the weekend, residents of a subdivision near the northern Colorado city of Fort Collins learned that 57 more homes in their neighborhood had been lost to High Park fire, which already had claimed 191 homes, authorities said.

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The High Park Fire is the second-largest wildfire and among the most expensive in Colorado's history. It has scorched more than 130 square miles and was just 45 percent contained on Sunday, The Denver Post reported.

With Colorado midway through its worst wildfire season in a decade, travelers have seen some of their favorite sites closed to the public, obscured by smoke and haze. Some travelers were awoken with evacuation orders.

Families planning whitewater rafting trips or visits to the stunning red-rock formations in Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs were instead spending their vacations passing out bottled water and setting up cots in evacuee centers.

They included Mark Stein of Morristown, N.J., whose family arrived after midnight Sunday at their Manitou Springs hotel for a week of whitewater rafting and sightseeing.

"We were sleeping for 15 minutes when they started knocking on the door — a day from hell," Stein said of the day of travel. With his wife and two sons, Stein spent the first night of his vacation setting up cots for more than 200 evacuees who slept at the school.

"I think it's the best vacation ever. This is what the real world is about. There's a lot of people that need help," Stein said.

Also Sunday, a brushfire that began near Elbert, about 50 miles southwest of Denver, quickly spread to about 60 acres, forcing the evacuation of about 100 residents.

Elsewhere, firefighters contended with windy and heat as they battled wildfires in Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

— In Utah, a 15-square-mile blaze around Fountain Green in Sanpete County was threatening more than 359 permanent structures and 213 mobile homes and travel trailers in four rural subdivisions, forcing about 1,000 people to flee. BLM says the human-caused fire erupted Saturday afternoon. Officials report progress on a 9-square-mile wildfire around Saratoga Springs, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City.

— In Montana, two wildfires were burning in the southwest part of the state, including the fast-moving Antelope Fire, which started Saturday afternoon about 10 miles north of Whitehall and had grown to 462 acres on Sunday. About 100 firefighters were battling that blaze.

— In Arizona, the U.S. Forest Service said Sunday that containment against the Pecos Fire, just outside of Young, is up to 50 percent and remains under 12,000 acres. Officials say many of the firefighting resources are being released to their home units or to other fire assignments.

IN PICTURES: Wildfires sweeping the west

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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