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Crews Battle Large Range Fire in Eastern Colorado

Eckley, CO is located in the North East corner of Colorado in Yuma County.
Eckley, CO is located in the North East corner of Colorado in Yuma County.

Firefighters near Yuma in eastern Colorado are hoping for cooler weather and calmer winds today as they try to contain a massive brush fire that destroyed at least two homes and forced the closure of Highway 34 for much of yesterday. 

Hundreds were evacuated across Yuma County Sunday as the fire raced through tinder dry prairie and farm land near the town of Eckley; about 150 miles east of Denver. The entire town was under a mandatory evacuation order for a time though that was lifted late in the evening.

Crews struggled to even get a handle on where the main part of the fire was and where it was headed – as blowing dust and smoke made visibility nearly impossible. Authorities say three firefighters were sent to the hospital with minor injuries.

Much of eastern Colorado has been under red-flag fire warnings for extreme wildfire dangers over the past week as unseasonably warm temperatures have combined with erratic winds.

Update: As of 8:45 Monday morning, Yuma County authorities report the Heartstrong Fire is 100% contained, and all evacuation orders across a 224 square mile area have been lifted. "The weather is cooperating today and we're looking at little to no wind until later this evening," said Yuma County Sheriff Chad Day, in a statement.

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.