LIVERMORE, Colo. (AP) — Lower temperatures and higher humidity Saturday were expected to help crews assigned to a wildfire that has scorched 12 square miles in northern Colorado.
The fire, which started Monday about 20 miles northwest of Fort Collins, had prompted officials to evacuate about 80 homes, but all residents were allowed to return by Friday night. No buildings have been damaged, and the blaze was about 45 percent contained Saturday morning.
Reghan Cloudman with the U.S. Forest Service said the area received about 0.15 inches of rain Saturday morning, which “is better than nothing.” More rain was possible Saturday, and temperatures were expected to remain in the 50s throughout the day.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said 56-year-old James J. Weber of Fort Collins started the fire with an outdoor stove while camping in the Roosevelt National Forest.
U.S. Forest Service investigators said Weber, a mental health counselor at Colorado State University, tried to stamp out the fire Monday but fled as the blaze spread. He later reported starting the fire to the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, officials said. There is no cell phone service in the area where the man was camping.
The Forest Service issued Weber a citation for causing a fire without a permit. He faces a $300 fine, but authorities also plan to pursue restitution for the blaze.
Weber’s attorney, Joseph A. Gavaldon, declined to comment about how the fire started or any events that followed, but he said his client is praying with “hope that this gets under control.”
The Colorado blaze, which has required the resources of more than 500 firefighters, two planes and five helicopters, was one of several burning in the West.
Wildfires also have charred terrain in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
— In Nevada, a blaze grew to 27 square miles and threatened sage grouse and mule deer habitat. No homes were in danger, and no injuries were reported. The cause of the blaze was under investigation.
— In New Mexico, firefighters battled a 410-acre blaze in Gila National Forest in the southwest part of the state. No structures were at risk, and no injuries were reported. Officials say lightning sparked the blaze Wednesday.
— In Utah, rain and cooler temperatures helped slow a wildfire that burned nearly 2 square miles in the western part of the state. Firefighters hoped to contain the blaze by late Friday. No structures were threatened, and no injuries were reported. Authorities say the blaze was sparked yesterday by heat from a passing car.
Associated Press writer Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.