Colorado wildfire burns almost 43,500 acres, leaves one woman dead

Officials plan to double the number of crews fighting a fast-moving wildfire in northern Colorado that has scorched nearly 43,500 acres, burned more than 100 structures and left one person dead.

As of Tuesday, there were 40 fire engines and 17 fire crews battling the blaze, said Bill Hahnenberg , the incident commander. He wants to increase that to 100 engines and 34 crews by Wednesday.

"My goal is to lessen the impacts of this fire on this community as much as we can," he told reporters Tuesday.

Dry conditions and unpredictable winds remain a challenge, but firefighters hope to control at least 10% of the blaze by the end of the day, he said.

Firefighters now have "some" containment of the fire, Larimer County Sheriff's Office spokesman John Schultz said.

"It's not appropriate for us to say there is zero containment anymore," he said. "Because we know there is some, especially on that east flank. We just don't know exactly how much yet."

Five hundred firefighters will be working Tuesday.

Authorities found the body of a 62-year-old woman in the ashes of a home Monday. Family members identified her as Linda Steadman.

The "mother, grandmother, sister and wife perished in the cabin she loved," the family said in a written statement.

About 43,433 acres, or nearly 68 square miles, had been burned, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday morning.

The fire has grown larger than Fort Collins, which is 47 square miles.

The fire was visible from the Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins, where students and staff were told to move activities inside if possible. The university's Foothills campus was a command center for the firefighting efforts.

More than 100 structures had been damaged or destroyed, Sheriff Justin Smith said Monday.

The department's executive officer, Nick Christensen, said that a pre-evacuation is under way in an area covering at least 89 homes. That means residents are being asked to prepare for an evacuation if one is ordered.

First measured at two acres early Saturday, the High Park Fire has grown exponentially in the time since, including more than doubling in size Sunday and again overnight into Monday.

Some of those evacuated Monday could do nothing but watch as firefighters doused the dry, hilly terrain, hoping that their homes would be saved. Others, like Kyle Ellis, had sad stories.

Ellis' home had burned, he told CNN affiliate KUSA, as he stood on a ridge line with others, watching.

He struggled to tell his young daughter why the fire moved so quickly and why they were homeless.

"Fire burns real fast, real hot, real dry," he said and then stopped, kissed the young girl on the cheek and told her she would get a new home.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but authorities believe it may have been started by lightning.

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