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Colorado Wildfires: Hot, Windy Weather To Challenge Colo. Fire Crews (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

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The sun sets amidst smoke from the High Park Fire near Bellvue, Colo., on Monday, June 18, 2012. The wildfire has now burned about 90 square miles and destroyed more than 180 homes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
The sun sets amidst smoke from the High Park Fire near Bellvue, Colo., on Monday, June 18, 2012. The wildfire has now burned about 90 square miles and destroyed more than 180 homes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

BELLEVUE, Colo. — The return of hot, dry and windy weather on Friday will challenge firefighters working to encircle a wildfire burning on over 68,000 acres in northern Colorado.

A red flag warning was in effect for much of Colorado as well as Utah and parts of Wyoming, Arizona and Nevada.

The mix of conditions that makes it easy for new fires to start and spread and cause existing fires to flare up could last through the weekend in Colorado, where the fire west of Fort Collins has now destroyed at least 191 homes. It's also blamed for the death of a woman found dead at her ranch.

Authorities surveying the burn area on Thursday found two additional houses previously burned by the fire. They expect the toll to rise as they continue the work.

Heat and low humidity is also a concern at the 1,150-acre wildfire burning near Lake George, which is 57 percent contained.

Conditions are so dry that sparks from bullets hitting targets can ignite wildfires.

Authorities are investigating whether recreational shooting sparked the fire near Lake George.

In Utah, 19 wildfires have been started by target shooters so far this year, compared with 24 during all of last year's fire season, The Salt Lake Tribune ( ) reported. http://bit.ly/LjdPFx

In another sign of how dry the West is, a highway mower is suspected of sparking a 6-acre wildfire along the Arkansas River in southern Colorado.

The fire, which started Wednesday, temporarily closed a stretch of the river to rafting in a canyon where the artist Christo is seeking permission to suspend huge fabric panels.

Opponents cited the fire as another reason to reject the work, saying a 15-ton drilling rig and other heavy equipment needed for the project would make it difficult for residents to evacuate in an emergency.

Elsewhere:

__ In Nevada, a wildfire that has charred nearly 12,000 acres of rugged terrain in northeast Nevada near the Utah line is 60 percent contained. It was started by a planned burn that escaped June 9.

_ In California, residents were allowed to return to homes and cabins near a 385-acre fire near Sequoia National Park, and firefighters fully contained the blaze Thursday. A body was found at the scene of a small brushfire in the San Fernando Valley and authorities were trying to determine whether it was dumped there.

_ In Wyoming, firefighters contained about 5 percent of a wildfire that has scorched more than 4 square miles in a remote and mountainous area of the Medicine Bow National Forest.

_ In New Mexico, a fire that has destroyed 242 homes and businesses, the largest in state history, has blackened 463 square miles in the Gila Wilderness and is 80 percent contained. Meanwhile, a 360-acre fire along the Rio Grande on the northern edge of Albuquerque was 50 percent contained. Nearby residents were on alert, but no one has been evacuated.

_ In Arizona, firefighters were maintaining lines around a wildfire that threatened transmission lines owned by two of the state's largest utilities. That fire near Young had grown to 11,011 acres. A separate fire in the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson was 60 percent contained after charring about 7,500 acres.

_ In Hawaii, the largest wildfire of the season has scorched at least 5,200 acres on the Big Island.

Also on The Huffington Post

High Park Fire, Northwest Of Fort Collins, Colorado
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