Crews battling wildfires


RANGELY, Colo. (AP) Fire crews and airplanes battled a fast-moving blaze that burned more than 45 acres in the Routt National Forest of northwestern Colorado on Wednesday.

It was one of at least 40 fires burning across the state.

The Routt National Forest fire was sweeping across a heavily timbered ridge near an area called Big Red Park. The blaze was spotted by two hikers.

''It's a pretty serious situation right at the moment,'' Punky Moore, spokeswoman for the Craig Interagency Dispatch Center, said Wednesday afternoon.

By nightfall, the fire's rate of growth spread had slowed, Moore said.

Firefighters toiled in 90-degree heat against dozens of fires elsewhere in northwest Colorado.

Smoke jumpers had to abandon their work fighting a blaze in the Black Mountain Wilderness Study Area east of Rangely because of extreme fire behavior, the Craig Dispatch Center said in a news release.

The fire, 11 miles east of Rangely, had burned about 500 acres by Wednesday night. Like most of the fires in the area, it was believed to have been started by lightning.

A fire between Rangely and Meeker blackened 160-170 acres, but a fire east of Dinosaur was contained and controlled after burning 500 acres.

Fire reconnaissance teams also checked numerous reports of small fires along the heavily populated slopes of the Front Range south of Denver. Forest Service spokesman Dave Steinke said between 40 and 50 fires were reported across the state.

Colorado has seen hot, dry weather for several days, and forecasts predicted little change through the weekend.

Also Wednesday, firefighters reported having a 3,000-acre fire in the Army-owned Pinon Canyon military training ground under control.

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