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Residents flee as historic Colorado wildfire burns out of control (+video)

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The Black Forest wildfire is one of three major wildfires raging in the Colorado forests and nine burning in New Mexico, all near the border between the two states.

The situation in the Royal Gorge fire area in Colorado is improving, says Mike Smith, a information officer working the Royal Gorge fire. The Royal Gorge fire was 20 percent contained at last report after burning through 3,100 acres. The historic Royal Gorge Bridge is now believed to be safe, although 32 planks were reportedly damaged, though a final inspection is still needed from engineers. Most of the tourist facility buildings surrounding the bridge were lost in the fire.

Mr. Smith says confidence is high with the fire crews who are comfortable with how this fire is behaving.

"There is some extreme fire potential," Smith says, "but we've had high relative humidity and low winds, so the crews made good progress."

Two local highways were closed for several days for the protection of residents who Smith reports were very cooperative.

"Most of the fire activity is on the south and west sections of the fire, away from the highways, so we are focusing on reopening the highways as soon as possible," he adds.

Across the border, New Mexico firefighters continue to struggle with fires in difficult terrain. The greatest concern is for the fires threatening homes, says Larry Helmerick, public information officer for Northern Arizona's Type 2 Incident Management Team.

Because of the Silver City fire in the Gila National Forest, 250 residents in Kingston, N.M. were evacuated Thursday. At last report, the lightning-sparked Silver City fire burned through 18,800 acres of extreme, rugged terrain with zero containment.

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