Most Destructive Ever Colorado Wildfire Burns 181 Homes

A northern Colorado wildfire that scorched about 85 square miles destroyed at least 181 homes, making it the most destructive blaze in the state’s history, officials told NBC station KUSA of Denver Saturday.

Firefighters watch as flames leap hundreds of feet in the air as the High Park wildfire fire explodes on the south side of Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins, Colo., on Thursday. The wildfire started Saturday and has burned over 50,000 acres.

A northern Colorado wildfire that scorched about 85 square miles destroyed at least 181 homes, making it the most destructive blaze in the state’s history, officials told NBC station KUSA of Denver Saturday.

Additional crews arrived Saturday, joining more than 1,500 personnel working on the fire about 15 miles west of Fort Collins. The lightning-caused blaze was reported June 9 and was 20 percent contained by Saturday evening, Laramie County officials said.

Fire information officer Brett Haberstick said hot and dry weather is expected to continue, but crews have made progress in containing a 200-acre spot fire north of the Cache La Poudre River, a critical line of defense against northward growth.

The September 2010 Four Mile Canyon fire burned more than 6,300 acres and destroyed a total of 169 homes, NBC station KUSA of Denver reported. The 2002 Hayman fire destroyed 133 homes and burned 138,000 acres of forest.

On Saturday morning a firefighter on scene was airlifted to a hospital because of a pre-existing condition. The firefighter is stable and the condition is non-life threatening.

Fire officials told KUSA the cost of the fire was estimated at $9.1 million.

Of the 3,000 notifications sent out for evacuations since the fire started, 1,187 of those have been lifted, KUSA said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who oversees the Forest Service, met with fire managers in Fort Collins on Saturday and said "fighting this fire is going to require us to be aggressive, persistent and also patient.

"We're going to continue to work to make our forests more resilient. We're going to continue to ensure that adequate resources are provided for fighting fires and we are going to continue to make sure that we encourage appropriate stewardship of our forests," he said.