World News

Wildfire destroys over 100 Colorado homes

By AAP Newswire

A growing wildfire destroyed more than 100 homes in the Colorado mountains, while other blazes across the parched US West kept hundreds of other homes under evacuation orders Tuesday and derailed holiday plans.

Authorities announced late Monday that a fire near Fort Garland, about 330 kilometres southwest of Denver, had destroyed 104 homes in a mountain housing development started by multimillionaire publisher Malcolm Forbes in the 1970s. The damage toll could rise because the burn area is still being surveyed.

The blaze, labelled the Spring Fire, is one of six large wildfires burning in Colorado and is the largest at 318 square kilometres - about five times the size of Manhattan. While investigators believe it was started by a spark from a fire pit, other fires, like one that began burning in wilderness near Fairplay, were started by lightning.

Nearly 60 large, active blazes are burning across the West, including nine in New Mexico and six each in Utah and California, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

In Utah, authorities have evacuated 200 to 300 homes because of a growing wildfire near a popular fishing reservoir southeast of Salt Lake City amid hot temperatures and high winds. Several structures have been lost since the fire started Sunday, but it's unclear how many, said Jason Curry of the Utah Division of Forest, Fire and State Lands.

Meanwhile, a wind-fuelled wildfire in Northern California that continues to send a thick layer of smoke and ash south of San Francisco was threatening more than 900 buildings.

The massive blaze was choking skies with ash and smoke, prompting some officials to cancel Fourth of July fireworks shows and urge people to stay indoors to protect themselves from the unhealthy air.

At least 2,500 people have been told to evacuate as the so-called County Fire continues to spread, said Anthony Brown, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Brown said the blaze, which started Saturday and is surging through rugged terrain northwest of Sacramento, has grown to 294 square kilometres amid hot and dry weather expected throughout the day. It was 15 per cent contained Tuesday.

"The weather is better than what we had over the weekend. But it's still hampering our efforts and it's an area of concern," he said.