DENVER -- Crews in northern Colorado are facing powerful winds as they battle a blaze that has scorched about 86 square miles of mountainous forest land and destroyed at least 181 homes, the most in state history. Meanwhile, local authorities are focusing on another concern -- looting.
The destructiveness of the High Park fire burning 15 miles west of Fort Collins surpassed the Fourmile Canyon wildfire, which destroyed 169 homes west of Boulder in September 2010.
More than 1,630 personnel are working on the Fort Collins-area fire, which was sparked by lightning and is 45 percent contained.
Julie Berney with the Larimer County Sheriff's Office said firefighters can expect winds of 30 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph Sunday. Some rain moved through Saturday evening, but it wasn't enough to quell the fire.
"The problem is that when you have a fire like this, even if it rains it evaporates before it hits the ground," Berney said.
On Sunday afternoon, wind-whipped flames prompted fire managers to send 96 notices to residents, ordering the immediate evacuation of the Hewlett Gulch subdivision in the Poudre Canyon area north of the fire. It was unclear how many homes were affected.
As firefighters try to get the upper hand on the blaze, which has burned large swaths of private and U.S. Forest Service land, local authorities have dispatched roving patrols to combat looting.
Deputies arrested 30-year-old Michael Stillman
Across the West:
The 59-square-mile Little Bear fire in Ruidoso is 60 percent contained. Dan Bastion, a spokesman for crews fighting the fire, says most of the fire is in the mop-up stage, but crews need to build more containment on the fire's active west side to deprive it of fuel.