AGUILAR, Colo. - The wildfire danger that has been menacing the parched southern plains spread to Arkansas and Colorado on Sunday, where wind-whipped blazes destroyed at least nine homes and forced hundreds of people to evacuate, authorities said. [...]

In Arkansas, a 3,000-acre wildfire destroyed four homes Sunday east of Hamburg and chased nearby residents from their houses. Four volunteer fire departments were battling the blaze, and Deputy State Forester Larry Nance said it likely would be Monday before they could gain control.

"The high temperatures, high winds and low humidities, that's the three big things that brought it more critical for all of Arkansas," Nance said. The cause of the fire, one of at least 43 reported in the state Sunday, was under investigation.

Arson was blamed in Oklahoma City for two small grass fires less than a mile apart Sunday that damaged two homes on the city's northeast side, said battalion chief Kirk Wright.

In Colorado, fire officials believe human activity sparked the large fires near Aguilar, though they declined to provide further details. Residents said there had been some controlled burning in the area, where the open land is largely covered by dry sagebrush and grass, and the hills are dotted with pinon and ponderosa pine.

"This just points out that we are very dry in Colorado even though it's winter," said Barb Timock, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman. "No matter where we are in Colorado, but especially along the Front Range, we ought to be thinking about being extremely careful with fires outdoors."

Aguilar's 1,000 residents were warned to be prepared to evacuate in case the flames moved closer.

Pam Dorland, a retiree from Sterling who lost her home in the hills outside Aguilar, discovered the wildfire Saturday night when her screen door blew open.

"I went to shut it and I could see the smoke. There was nothing we could do," said Dorland, who returned with her husband Sunday morning to water down the smoldering remains of their house. They wanted to make sure that the remains didn't cause a flare-up.

Wind gusting up to 50 mph prevented authorities from using airplanes to drop slurry on the blazes Sunday, said Pam Martinez of the Huerfano County Sheriff's office.

Another wildfire broke out in northern Colorado, forcing three to four dozen residents to evacuate homes near Carter Lake.

Drought conditions and gusting wind have spread dozens of wildfires across Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico over the past two weeks. At least 475 homes have been destroyed by the winter blazes and five people have been killed.

In Texas, more than 60 wildfires were reported Sunday, though most were relatively small. Burn bans and more firefighting resources, such as aircraft and equipment, have helped firefighters get the blazes under control, said Forest Service fire information officer Jim Caldwell.

Across Oklahoma, fire crews responded to more than 30 fires during the day, including a large blaze in southeast Oklahoma that scorched about 6,000 acres, according to the state's incident command center in Shawnee.

"The big problem today is going to be an expected wind shift coming in from the north," said Richard Reuse, a spokesman for the center. "If firefighters aren't aware of the wind shift while they're putting out a fire, it could get really dangerous for them."