Colorado wildfires displace thousands, prompt national forest closure

A satellite image shows the 416 Wildfire burning west of Highway 550 and northwest of Hermosa, Colorado, U.S., June 10, 2018. Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company /Handout via REUTERS

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – Firefighters battled to gain control over several large wildfires in Colorado on Tuesday, including two blazes at opposite ends of the state that have prompted the evacuation of more than 3,500 homes and the closure of a national forest.

The largest and most threatening blaze, a 12-day-old conflagration dubbed the 416 Fire, has scorched more than 23,000 acres (9,461 hectares) of drought-parched grass, brush and timber at the edge of the San Juan National Forest near the southwestern Colorado town of Durango.

Fire crews made some headway against the blaze on Tuesday, managing to extend containment lines to 15 percent of the fire’s perimeter, up from 10 percent on Monday, despite persistent hot, dry conditions and fierce winds of up to 25 miles per hour (40 km/h).

Some 2,150 dwellings remained under evacuation orders and residents of another 500 homes were advised they, too, might have to flee at a moment’s notice, La Plata County officials said. Significant rainfall was not expected before this weekend.

The 416 Fire and a separate blaze burning nearby, the so-called Burro Fire, also prompted state parks officials to close several wildlife areas to the public. The U.S. Forest Service shut down all 1.8 million acres of the San Juan National Forest to visitors on Tuesday.

However, firefighters were counting on some relief from a promising shift in weather patterns forecast for Friday, some of it associated with Hurricane Bud.

Far across the state about 60 miles (95 km) west of Denver, a newer blaze called the Buffalo Mountain fire prompted the mandatory evacuation of 1,380 homes after blackening a comparatively small area of just 100 acres, Summit County officials said.

A total of at least seven major wildfires were raging in parts Colorado on Tuesday, marking the biggest concentration of roughly 30 blazes burning across nine Western states as the 2018 summer wildfire season heated up across the region.

In southern Wyoming near the Colorado border, the so-called Badger Creek Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest grew up to 5,200 acres late Tuesday, from just 150 acres a day earlier, as evacuation orders were expanded to nearly 400 homes in Albany County, according to the Inciweb online U.S. fire information service.

(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Steve Orlofsky)

Firefighters battle Colorado wildfire under dry, hot conditions

the 416 Wildfire burning west of Highway 550 and northwest of Hermosa, Colorado, U.S., June 10, 2018. Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company /Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Firefighters battling a raging wildfire in southwestern Colorado faced more hot, dry conditions and gusty winds on Tuesday, officials said.

The 416 Fire has already forced people to flee about 2,000 homes in the 11 days since it started while pre-evacuation notices were issued for another 127 homes on Monday, officials in La Plata County said.

Temperatures would reach the mid 80s Fahrenheit (around 30 Celsius) and winds up to 25 miles (40 km) an hour on Tuesday, the U.S. Forest Service said. Humidity was expected to stay low, at around 6 percent, it added.

After doubling in size from Saturday to Sunday, the wildfire, 13 miles north of the small city of Durango, covered 20,131 acres (8,147 hectares) and was just 15 percent contained, the service said.

The 416 Fire – named after its emergency service call number – is by far the largest of at least a half-dozen blazes raging across Colorado.

A 32-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 550, which has served as a buffer for homes on the eastern edge of the fire, was closed, officials said.

All 1.8 million acres of the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado were due to be closed to visitors by Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, citing the fire danger.

No buildings have been destroyed so far, but flames had crept to within a few hundred yards of homes. Aircraft have been dropping water and flame retardant, according to fire information website InciWeb.

The site said containment was not expected before the end of the month.

The National Weather Service posted red-flag warnings for extreme fire danger for large portions of the Four Corners region of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Colorado wildfire threatens more homes as wind spreads blaze

A helicopter drops water on the 416 Fire near Durango, Colorado, U.S. in this June 4, 2018 handout photo obtained by Reuters June 5, 2018. La Plata County/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – A wildfire raging largely unchecked on Wednesday in southwest Colorado forced hundreds of residents to prepare to evacuate and could spread to other states, officials warned.

Emergency crews said they had only managed to contain 10 percent of the fire near the towns of Durango and Hermosa, where the forecast was for another dry, hot day, with wind gusts likely to spread the fire.

The fire grew about 1,000 acres from Tuesday to Wednesday, to cover 4,015 acres (1,625 hectares). It is expanding to the north, the west and the south but has not crossed U.S. Highway 550, which has helped firefighters protect 825 houses east of the highway, said Megan Graham, spokeswoman for La Plata County.

Residents of those 825 houses were ordered to evacuate several days ago, after the fire started on Friday.

La Plata County has issued pre-evacuation notices for about another 1,250 residences, Graham said.

Vehicles are being allowed to travel through the area on Highway 550 in single-file convoys protected and escorted by law enforcement officers, Graham said.

“Please do not stop to take photos and observe the fire! Stay with the convoy!” a Twitter message posted on Wednesday by La Plata County warned.


The 416 Fire – named, local media said, after its official incident number – burned over steep terrain sending smoke billowing into the sky.

Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the blaze, said Cam Hooley, spokeswoman for the San Juan National Forest.

The Durango Herald reported that a retired volunteer firefighter noticed the fire last Friday morning.

The National Weather Service has placed large sections of the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah under an elevated fire risk.

In New Mexico, the Ute Park wildfire was 30 percent contained by Wednesday morning, having burned 36,800 acres (14,892 hectares) of drought-parched grassland and timber since last Thursday. The 1,110 residents of Cimarron, New Mexico, were on Monday allowed back into their homes after showers on Sunday helped quell part of that blaze.

No injuries or major damage to structures have been reported from either fire.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Lisa Shumaker)

Colorado wildfire rages as firefighters gain on New Mexico blaze US-USA-WILDFIRES

The 416 Fire near Durango, southern Colorado. REUTERS/Courtesy La Plata County, Colorado

(Reuters) – Hot weather was expected to stoke an unchecked wildfire in southern Colorado on Tuesday that forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

The blaze, dubbed the 416 Fire, spread across some 2,400 acres (971 hectares) early on Tuesday near Durango, Colorado, where the temperature was expected to reach into the high 80s.

The fire, which began on Friday, was just 10 percent contained on Tuesday morning, as about 825 homes remained under evacuation, officials said.

“In the coming days the fire is expected to burn actively,” the U.S. Forest Service said in an alert. “Firefighters will continue building defensible spaces around homes and structures.”

About 250 miles (400 km) to southeast, 1,110 residents of Cimarron, New Mexico were allowed back into their homes after showers on Sunday helped quell part of a separate blaze, the Ute Park Fire, which burned 36,000 acres (14,569 hectares) of drought-parched grassland and timber since erupting on Thursday.

Cimarron, a frontier-style town, lies about 140 miles (225 km) northeast of Albuquerque, the state’s largest city. Ute Park is about 10 miles (16 km) west of Cimarron.

By early Tuesday, fire crews had managed to carve containment lines around 25 percent of the blaze, up from zero containment on Sunday morning.

About 75 people from the small nearby community of Ute Park, near the Colorado border, remained under a mandatory evacuation on Monday, said Judith Dyess, spokeswoman for the multi-agency Southwest Incident Management Team managing the blaze.

The causes of both fires were unknown and under investigation. No injuries or property losses were reported from either.

“Critical fire weather and smoky conditions are expected to return in the coming days as a high pressure system is building from the south,” fire officials said in an alert regarding the New Mexico fire.

The nearby Santa Fe National Forest was closed to the public indefinitely on Friday in a rare measure prompted by the heightened fire risk from prolonged drought.