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Wildfire smoke smudges skies above capital

Jun 13, 2012 - By Dan Elliott, The Associated Press

LOVELAND, Colo. -- Smoke from a massive wildfire in northern Colorado was blowing into southeast Wyoming and smudging the skies above Cheyenne on Wednesday.

Overnight winds from the southwest blew smoke into Wyoming, leaving a pungent odor in the air around the state's capital city, which is 50 miles north of the fire. The smoke had drifted south to Denver on Tuesday but skies there were clear a day later.

The fire 15 miles west of Fort Collins has burned 73 square miles, destroyed over 100 structures and forced hundreds of people from their homes.

The evacuees face extended displacement and uncertainty though some may find out Wednesday whether their houses are still standing.

Evacuee Jan Gueswel still swears she'd never live anywhere else.

"I would rather live in Poudre Park than in an apartment where I don't know what my neighbor is doing," said Gueswel, who fled her home with her husband, Carl, as northern Colorado's High Park Fire exploded.

She and others say they'd long ago accepted the year-round risks of fire in mountain country.

"You move out east, you got the tornadoes. You live in the mountains, you got the fires," said Denise Haines, whose family loaded up 142 alpacas and llamas from their mountain farm and took them to the Larimer County Fairgrounds.

Many residents in the mountains of southern New Mexico faced heartbreak: A 56-square-mile fire threatening the village of Ruidoso damaged or destroyed at least 224 homes and other structures. Workers found heaps of burned metal and debris on home sites hit hardest by the Little Bear fire.

"It's truly heartbreaking to see the damage done to this beautiful part of the country," New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said.

With at least 19 large fires burning in nine states, President Barack Obama called Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to assure him that the federal government was ready to provide personnel, equipment and emergency grants for states battling fire. Obama tried to reach Martinez, but her office said poor reception in the fire zone kept the two from connecting.

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