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Firefighters unable to tame Colo. wildfire

Smoke from a huge wildfire hung in the air near Alpine, Colo. The blaze, near a popular retreat in southern Colorado, continues to be driven by winds and fueled by dead trees.

Gregory Bull/Asscoiated Press

Smoke from a huge wildfire hung in the air near Alpine, Colo. The blaze, near a popular retreat in southern Colorado, continues to be driven by winds and fueled by dead trees.

DEL NORTE, Colo. — A colossal wildfire near a popular summer retreat in southern Colorado continues to be driven by winds and fueled by dead trees in a drought-stricken area, authorities said Sunday.

The weather has prevented fire crews from making progress on the blaze, which grew overnight to 108 square miles, up from 100 on Saturday. The speed with which the fire has spread is exceptional: It was just below 50 square miles Friday evening.

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No structures have been lost in the fire, and no injuries have been reported. It is doubtful fire crews could establish any containment lines until there’s a break in the weather, possibly Tuesday, officials said. They remained optimistic they can protect the town, however.

As of Sunday, firefighters remained focused on protecting South Fork, the Wolf Creek ski area and homes along Highway 149.

Crews hoped to get aircraft up to drop water over the fire before afternoon winds of 30 to 40 miles an hour returned Sunday. Pete Blume, a commander with the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Command Team, said the wildfire is the worst ever known to hit the Rio Grande National Forest.

‘‘It’s not typical to have these kinds of fires here,’’ said Blume. ‘‘But beetle kill and drought is also not the norm.’’

Firefighters are hoping for a break in the high winds as well as the anticipated July monsoons to help them fight back the flames. Until then, Blume said, ‘‘with that much beetle kill and drought we could have every resource in the country here and still not put in a containment line.’’

Still, fire officials believe portions of the blaze will burn all summer in forested, nonresidential areas, with full extinguishment months away.

The lightning-sparked blaze started June 5, but its rapid advance Friday prompted the evacuation of hundreds of visitors and the town’s 400 permanent residents.

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