Large northern Colorado fire half contained

Progress made on record-breaking blaze

A spotter plane, top, follows a slurry bomber in a drop on the High Park Fire on Tuesday. Incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said it could be weeks or even months before itís finally controlled. Enlarge photo

Ed Andrieski/Associated Press

A spotter plane, top, follows a slurry bomber in a drop on the High Park Fire on Tuesday. Incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said it could be weeks or even months before itís finally controlled.

BELLVUE Ė Firefighters are making progress on a 93-square-mile wildfire in northern Colorado that has destroyed more homes than any other in state history, but more residents were warned Tuesday to be ready to leave because of a spot fire that ignited near the main fire.

The large blaze west of Fort Collins was 50 percent contained after firefighters labored in temperatures in the 90s to extend lines around the fire Monday. Cooler temperatures were expected today, with a chance of isolated thunderstorms Thursday.

The fire already has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9. Incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said it could be weeks or even months before itís finally controlled.

The wildfire is one of several across the West forcing people to flee, including another blaze in Colorado that has driven out nuns living in a monastery, Boy Scouts at camp and residents of about 150 homes.

The Protection of the Holy Virgin Monastery was evacuated as a precaution Sunday after the fire started in the foothills west of Colorado Springs.

A nun who returned to feed chickens at the remote monastery Tuesday said the fire was about two miles from the site. She said sacred items from the chapel, including a chalice, along with insurance papers and historical documents were removed Sunday as slurry bombers flew over the property.

The fire has burned nearly 2 square miles, and fire managers said it still has the potential to grow in an area where logs are drier than pine boards from a lumber yard.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said Tuesday his agency is adding four heavy helicopters to its firefighting fleet. Two S-61s owned by Siller Helicopters of Yuba City, Calif.; an S-64 Skycrane owned by Erickson Air Crane of Central Point, Ore.; and an S-70 owned by Firehawk Helicopters of Leesburg, Fla., will be available for any fire in the country, he said.