Huge wildfires hit Colorado and New Mexico

Colorado residents talk about the battle against the wildfires

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Hundreds of firefighters have joined efforts to tackle two of the biggest wildfires ever seen in the US states of Colorado and New Mexico.

The Colorado blaze shrouded the state capital, Denver, 60 miles (100km) away, in smoke, hampering rescue efforts.

A woman has died in the blaze, which has burned about 46,720 acres (73 sq miles).

Smaller fires also burnt in nine drought-stricken western states, including Utah, California and Arizona.

In Colorado's Larimer County, authorities and family members said Linda Steadman, 62, died inside her mountain cabin.

Sheriff Justin Smith said that her home had received two evacuation warnings that were not answered, AP reports.

'Dire'

President Barack Obama called the Colorado governor to offer federal personnel, equipment and emergency grants - but was unable to reach his New Mexico counterpart due to poor reception in the fire zone, the Associated Press reported.

Locator map

According to a national incident information website, a fire in two national parks in Colorado - dubbed the High Park Fire - has scorched nearly 47,000 acres of forest.

About 118 structures have been damaged or destroyed by the blaze in the state - believed to have been started by lightning.

Hundreds of people had to be evacuated and some 800 firefighters were sent to the scene. Reports suggest it has cost $3m (£1.9m) to fight the blaze.

By Wednesday afternoon, the High Park fire was about 10% contained.

"We're gaining," Bill Hahnenberg, a US Forest Service commander responsible for the fire told reporters.

Sandy Mullen, whose home was destroyed in the blaze, said she left when it became clear that little would be left of her home.

"The ashes were coming down, the fire was coming down when we left so we knew, and it was burning on three sides," she told AP.

Another resident, Jan Gueswel, told the Associated Press that as she left her home flames 200ft (61m) high were raging on the only road out.

But she would not want to live anywhere else, she said.

"I would rather live in Poudre Park than in an apartment where I don't know what my neighbour is doing," Ms Gueswel said.

If the area burnt by the High Park wildfire was centred on Manhattan

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Reported burn area as of 09:00GMT
Source: US Incident Information System

In southern New Mexico, a 145 sq km (56-sq-mile) fire threatening the village of Ruidoso damaged or destroyed at least 224 homes and cabins, AP reports.

Nearly 1,000 firefighters were sent to fight the blaze, as well as more than 200 members of the National Guard, and they have managed to contain about 35% of the fire, officials say.

Rescuers said all that was left on the sites of homes destroyed by the Little Bear fire was heaps of scorched metal.

"It's truly heartbreaking to see the damage done to this beautiful part of the country," New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez said after visiting the area.

But officials were sounding cautious optimism by Wednesday afternoon over another large fire in New Mexico.

"We're still not completely out of the woods," Dean McAlister, a spokesman dealing with the Whitewater-Baldy fire, told the Los Angeles Times. "But barring unforeseen winds, we shouldn't have a problem from now keeping it where we want to."

Mr McAlister said fire containment lines were working against the blaze, which has burned over 275,000 acres since mid-May.

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