Jun 17, 2012 2:08 PM by Matt Stafford

Strong winds expected to fuel High Park Fire

DENVER (AP) - Crews in northern Colorado are bracing for powerful winds as they battle a blaze that has scorched about 86 square miles of mountainous forest land and destroyed at least 181 homes, the most in state history.

The destructiveness of the High Park Fire burning 15 miles west of Fort Collins surpassed the Fourmile Canyon wildfire, which destroyed 169 homes west of Boulder in September 2010.

More than 1,630 personnel are working on the Fort Collins-area fire, which was sparked by lightning and is 45 percent contained.

Julie Berney with the Larimer County Sheriff's Office says firefighters can expect sustained winds of 30 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph Sunday. A Red Flag Warning for fire danger has been issued for the area, lasting through 8 p.m. Sunday.

Meanwhile, incident commander Bill Hahnenberg says he is confident with the resources on hand.

As of Sunday the cost of the fire is estimated at $10.8 million dollars.

After the arrest of a 30-year-old Denver man Saturday night for impersonating a fireman and being in possession of stolen property, crews are reassuring evacuated residents that a strong law enforcement and National Guard presence is in the area to watch for illegal activity. Michael Stillman Maher is facing four charges, including two felonies for theft and attempting to influence a public servant.



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