Self-driving trucks begin mail delivery test for U.S. Postal Service

The TuSimple self-driving truck is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters May 20, 2019. TuSimple/Handout via REUTERS

By Heather Somerville

(Reuters) – The U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday started a two-week test transporting mail across three Southwestern states using self-driving trucks, a step forward in the effort to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology for hauling freight.

San Diego-based startup TuSimple said its self-driving trucks will begin hauling mail between USPS facilities in Phoenix and Dallas to see how the nascent technology might improve delivery times and costs. A safety driver will sit behind the wheel to intervene if necessary and an engineer will ride in the passenger seat.

If successful, it would mark an achievement for the autonomous driving industry and a possible solution to the driver shortage and regulatory constraints faced by freight haulers across the country.

The pilot program involves five round trips, each totaling more than 2,100 miles (3,380 km) or around 45 hours of driving. It is unclear whether self-driving mail delivery will continue after the two-week pilot.

“The work with TuSimple is our first initiative in autonomous long-haul transportation,” USPS spokeswoman Kim Frum said. “We are conducting research and testing as part of our efforts to operate a future class of vehicles which will incorporate new technology.”

TuSimple and the USPS declined to disclose the cost of the program, but Frum said no tax dollars were used and the agency relies on revenue from sales of postage and other products. TuSimple has raised $178 million in private financing, including from chipmaker Nvidia Corp and Chinese online media company Sina Corp.

The trucks will travel on major interstates and pass through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The TuSimple self-driving truck is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters May 20, 2019. TuSimple/Handout via REUTERS

The TuSimple self-driving truck is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters May 20, 2019. TuSimple/Handout via REUTERS

“This run is really in the sweet spot of how we believe autonomous trucks will be used,” said TuSimple Chief Product Officer Chuck Price. “These long runs are beyond the range of a single human driver, which means today if they do this run they have to figure out how to cover it with multiple drivers in the vehicle.”

The goal is to eliminate the need for a driver, freeing shippers and freight-haulers from the constraints of a worsening driver shortage. The American Trucking Associations estimates a shortage of as many as 174,500 drivers by 2024, due to an aging workforce and the difficulty of attracting younger drivers.

A new safety law requiring truck drivers to electronically log their miles has further constrained how quickly and efficiently fleets can move goods.

TuSimple’s tie-up with the USPS marks an achievement for the fledgling self-driving truck industry, and follows Swedish company Einride’s entry into freight delivery using driverless electric trucks on a public road, announced last week.

The developments contrast with retrenching efforts by robotaxi companies such as General Motors Co unit Cruise, Uber Technologies Inc and startup Drive.ai, which have stumbled in building self-driving cars that can anticipate and respond to humans and navigate urban areas, an expensive and technologically challenging feat.

Price said self-driving trucks have advantages over passenger cars, including the relative ease of operating on interstates compared with city centers, which reduces mapping requirements and safety challenges involving pedestrians and bicyclists.

(Reporting by Heather Somerville in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Largest-ever U.S. border seizure of fentanyl made in Arizona: officials

Packets of fentanyl mostly in powder form and methamphetamine, which U.S. Customs and Border Protection say they seized from a truck crossing into Arizona from Mexico, is on display during a news conference at the Port of Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 31, 2019. Courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Handout via REUTERS

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) – U.S. border agents have seized 254 pounds (115 kg) of fentanyl that was stashed in a truck crossing into Arizona from Mexico, marking the largest single bust of the powerful opioid ever made at an American border checkpoint, officials said on Thursday.

The 26-year-old Mexican driver of a cucumber-toting tractor-trailer was arrested after agents on Saturday at the border station in Nogales discovered the fentanyl in a secret compartment, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 100 times stronger than morphine that can kill with a 2-milligram dose, has been blamed for fueling an opioid crisis in the United States. It gained notoriety after an overdose of the painkiller was deemed to have killed pop singer Prince in 2016.

The United States had a record 72,000 deaths from drug overdoses in 2017, with opioids responsible for most of those fatalities. President Donald Trump has declared opioid addiction a public health emergency.

The latest seizure in Nogales is the largest-ever confiscation of fentanyl by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, officials said in a statement.

The fentanyl was worth an estimated $3.5 million, based on valuation criteria of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Hugo Nunez, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in an email.

The drugs were found after the truck was pulled over for a secondary inspection and drug-sniffing canines picked up an odor, Michael Humphries, the Nogales Area Port director, told reporters.

The driver, Juan Antonio Torres-Barraza, was charged in federal court in Tucson with two counts of drug possession with the intent to distribute.

An attorney for Torres-Barraza could not immediately be reached for comment.

Another 395 pounds (180 kg) of methamphetamine, worth about $1.1 million, also was confiscated from the truck, officials said.

“Fentanyl is trafficked into the United States largely from China and Mexico but it is not possible to determine which country is a bigger supplier, the DEA said in a report in October.

The U.S. Department of Justice, in a report last year to the U.S. Congress, has said the drug is primarily shipped to the United States from China through cargo containers or international mail. But Chinese fentanyl is sometimes sent to criminal groups in Mexico or Canada and smuggled across the border, the report said.

Last month, Mexican officials busted a fentanyl lab in Mexico City.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Grebler)

Crosses in Arizona desert mark where ‘American dream ended’ for migrants

Artist Alvaro Enciso makes a cross to commemorate the death of a migrants at his home in Tucson, Pima County, Arizona, U.S. September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

By Jane Ross

SONORAN DESERT, Ariz. (Reuters) – The brightly-colored crosses that Alvaro Enciso plants in the unforgiving hard sand of Arizona’s Sonoran desert mark what he calls ‘the end of an American dream’ – the places where a migrant died after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The bodies of nearly 3,000 migrants have been recovered in southern Arizona since 2000, according to the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner. Aid group Humane Borders, which sets up water stations along migrant trails, said that may be only a fraction of the total death toll, with most bodies never recovered.

Humane Borders, in partnership with the medical examiner’s office, publishes a searchable online map, which marks with a red dot the exact location where each migrant body was found.

It was that map and its swarms of red dots that inspired Enciso, a 73-year-old artist and self-described ‘reluctant activist,’ to start his project.

“I saw this map with thousands of red dots on it, just one on top of the other,” he told Reuters at his workshop in Tucson in September. “I want to go where those red dots (are). You know, the place where a tragedy took place. And be there and feel that place where the end of an American dream happened to someone,” he said.

The red dots of the map are represented by a circle of red metal Enciso nails to each cross, which he makes in his workshop. He decorates the crosses with small pieces of objects left behind by migrants, which he collects on his trips to the desert.

With temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius), Alvaro and his two assistants, Ron Kovatch and Frank Sagona, hauled two large wooden crosses, a shovel, jugs of water and a bucket of concrete powder through the scrubby desert south of Arizona’s Interstate 8, weaving through clumps of mesquite trees and saguaro cacti.

They used a portable GPS device to navigate to a featureless patch of rocky ground – the place where the remains of 40 year-old Jose Apolinar Garcia Salvador were found on Sept. 14, 2006, his birthplace and cause of death never recorded.

They planted another cross for a second person who was never identified, one of 1,100 recovered from Arizona’s deserts since 2000 whose names are unknown.

Enciso, who left Colombia in the 1960s to attend college in the United States, considers the crosses part art project and part social commentary. He would like to see an end to migrant deaths in the desert and a change in U.S. immigration laws.

“We cannot continue to be a land, a country that was created on the idea that we accept everybody here. We have broken the number one rule of what America is all about,” he said.

(Reporting by Jane Ross, Editing by Bill Tarrant and Rosalba O’Brien)

Thousands endure blazing Arizona heat to view Senator John McCain’s casket

Cindy McCain, wife of U.S. Senator John McCain, arrives with her sons Jack and Jimmy during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 29, 2018. Ross D. Franklin/Pool via REUTERS

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) – Thousands of admirers of the late Senator John McCain stood in line for hours on Wednesday in the blazing Arizona sun and triple-digit heat for a chance to pay final respects to the war hero and two-time Republican presidential candidate.

The single-file procession through the Arizona Capitol rotunda, where McCain’s flag-draped coffin was lying in state, stretched across the statehouse plaza and widened to two or three abreast as it extended down adjacent streets.

More than a dozen canvas awnings were set up to provide shade for the throngs, with temperatures reaching 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) at midday.

The public viewing of his casket, following a brief ceremony for family and dignitaries led by Governor Doug Ducey, came on the first of five days of memorial tributes planned for McCain, who died on Saturday from brain cancer. He was 81.

The onetime U.S. Navy fighter pilot endured 5-1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam before embarking on a celebrated political career. McCain stood out during the last two years as a key rival and critic of U.S. President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican whom McCain’s family has asked not to attend the funeral.

Members of the public listen to a private ceremony while waiting in line to pay their respects to U.S. Senator John McCain as he lies in state at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Members of the public listen to a private ceremony while waiting in line to pay their respects to U.S. Senator John McCain as he lies in state at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Among several thousand waiting to glimpse McCain’s coffin at Arizona’s Capitol was James Fine, 54, a Dallas funeral director who drove over 1,000 miles (1,609 km) to Phoenix to bid farewell to a man he called a “statesman.”

“I get up every day and read the news, and then I see what John McCain has to say,” Fine told Reuters. “They don’t make heroes like him anymore.”

Earlier, the hearse bearing McCain’s coffin was greeted outside the statehouse by National Guard troops, military veterans, law enforcement officers and firefighters, all in dress uniform and standing at attention as they saluted.

Inside, close relatives and dozens of politicians, including several former Republican colleagues from Arizona’s congressional delegation, paid tribute to McCain’s life and legacy during a 30-minute ceremony.

“He fought like hell for the causes he believed in,” Ducey said. “He did it with humor and humanity, and without compromising the principles he held so dear.”

McCain’s wife, Cindy, widely seen as a possible candidate for appointment to succeed her husband, led a procession of 90 mourners past his casket. She paused briefly, stooping down to rest her cheek on the coffin, then patted it gently.

Their daughter Meghan McCain, co-host of the television talk show “The View,” sobbed openly.

McCain will lie in state again at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, followed by a funeral Saturday at Washington’s National Cathedral and a burial on Sunday at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Ducey has said he will wait until after McCain’s burial to name an immediate successor.

(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Brian Snyder in Phoenix; writing by Steve Gorman; editing by Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

Arizona to mourn Senator John McCain at state capitol

A makeshift memorial stands outside the offices of the late U.S. Senator John McCain in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) – The body of John McCain, who endured 5-1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and went on to become a lion of the U.S. Senate and a two-time Republican candidate for president, will lie in state on Wednesday in the Arizona state capitol.

The daylong public viewing of his casket was the start of five days of memorial tributes in Phoenix and Washington for McCain, who died of brain cancer on Saturday at his ranch in Cornville, Arizona. He was 81.

“We are privileged as a state to have called him a fellow Arizonan, and we are honored to have the opportunity to celebrate his life,” Governor Doug Ducey said on Twitter early Wednesday.

McCain parlayed his status as a Vietnam War hero into a decades-long political career. Over the past two years he has stood out as a key rival and critic of U.S. President Donald Trump. The bad blood between the two persisted after McCain’s death, with his family asking Trump not to attend his funeral and the White House waffling on how to mourn a prominent fellow Republican.

McCain will be just the third person to lie in state in the Rotunda of the Arizona statehouse over the past 40 years, organizers of the ceremony said. The two others were state Senator Marilyn Jarrett in 2006 and Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens, a Tucson resident, in 1980.

Following a Thursday memorial at a Phoenix church, McCain’s body will be flown to Washington where he will lie in state on Friday at the U.S. Capitol before a Saturday funeral at the Washington National Cathedral.

On Sunday, McCain is to be buried in a private ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he graduated as a U.S. Navy officer in 1958 before going on to become a fighter pilot.

Ducey, a Republican, has said he will wait until after McCain’s burial to name a successor.

His pick will come from McCain’s party, leaving intact the Republican 51-49 majority in the Senate. It was unclear whether any successor would be inclined or able to play the role of public foil to Trump that McCain did, most notably in July 2017 when he cast the vote that blocked a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

Arizona Republicans on Tuesday picked a candidate to succeed retiring Senator Jeff Flake, another vocal Trump critic. Their choice, U.S. Representative Martha McSally, is a staunch Trump supporter, as were her two rivals for the nomination. She will face Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in the Nov. 6 general election.

 

(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

Kroger begins tests of driverless grocery delivery in Arizona

Nuro's R1 driverless delivery van is seen packed with bags from Kroger's Fry's Food Stores, which will begin a test of the vehicle in Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S., this autumn in this undated photo provided August 15, 2018. Courtesy of Kroger/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – U.S. supermarket operator Kroger Co said it will start testing driverless grocery delivery on Thursday with technology partner Nuro at a single Fry’s Food Store in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Kroger and rival Walmart Inc each have teamed up with autonomous vehicle companies in a bid to lower the high cost of “last-mile” deliveries to customer doorsteps, as online retailer Amazon.com rolls out free Whole Foods delivery for subscribers to its Prime perks program.

“Kroger wants to bring more customers the convenience of affordable grocery delivery,” said Kroger Chief Digital Officer Yael Cosset, who added that the test will also gauge consumer demand for the service.

The first phase of the test will use a fleet of Toyota Prius cars equipped with Nuro technology. Those cars have seats for humans who can override autonomous systems in the event of an error or emergency. Nuro’s R1 driverless delivery van, which has no seats, will begin testing this autumn, the companies said.

“While we compete final certification and testing of the R1, the Prius will be delivering groceries and helping us improve the overall service,” a Nuro spokeswoman said.

Self-driving car delivery from the Fry’s store will cost $5.95 with no minimum order. It is only available at addresses within the store’s zip code of 85257, Kroger said.

Walmart and Alphabet Inc’s self-driving car company Waymo are partnering to test a service that shuttles Phoenix shoppers to stores to collect online grocery orders.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Prime wildfire weather is sweeping across western U.S.

The Sierra Hotshots, from the Sierra National Forest, are responding on the front lines of the Ferguson Fire in Yosemite in this US Forest Service photo from California, U.S. released on social media on July 22, 2018. Courtesy USDA/US Forest Service, Sierrra Hotshots/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Brutally hot temperatures, fierce winds and arid conditions will sweep across the U.S. West on Wednesday, and the weather may contribute to an already deadly wildfire season.

Temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 C), winds gusting up to 50 miles (80 km) per hour and humidity levels in the teens are in the forecast for many parts of Oregon, California, Arizona and Nevada on Wednesday and into Thursday, the National Weather Service said in a series of advisories.

The service warned that the weather could lead to more of the fires in the region, which have killed nine firefighters and destroyed more than 2,500 homes.

One of the largest, the Ferguson Fire, forced the Yosemite Valley and other parts of Yosemite National Park to close on Wednesday as smoke filled the air in the popular tourist destination.

The Ferguson Fire, which has been burning since July 13 and has claimed the life of one firefighter, had charred about 37,795 acres (15,295 hectares) to the south and west of the park. It was 26 percent contained as of Tuesday night, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The park’s Yosemite Valley, Wawona and Mariposa Grove are to be closed at least through Sunday by the fire operations, the National Park Service said.

More than 3,400 personnel using 16 helicopters and 59 bulldozers have been battling the blaze, which has caused six injuries and led to evacuations in parts of the region.

In all, 73 major wildfires are burning in the United States in an area of about 700,000 acres. Most are in western states, with blazes also in central Texas and Wisconsin, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center.

As of July 24, wildfires had burned through 3.94 million acres this year, above the 10-year average for the same calendar period of 3.54 million acres, it said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, editing by Larry King)

Explainer: Drought creates a perfect storm for wildfires in U.S. West

Firefighters battle a fast-moving wildfire in Goleta, California, July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

By Andrew Hay

TAOS, New Mexico (Reuters) – Bigger and more “explosive” wildfires are raging across the U.S. West, with the area burned in Colorado already four times the size of last year’s total, as rising temperatures, drought and a buildup of forest fuels supercharge blazes.

So far this year, 3.3 million acres have burned in U.S. forests, just below the figure for this time in 2017. Last year was the second worst year on record with 10 million acres blackened, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

Around 2,600 homes have been destroyed nationally by fires year to date, according to Forest Service data. Nine U.S. wildland firefighters have been killed up to this week, compared with 14 killed in all of 2017, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. It was not immediately possible to verify how many civilians have died this year.

The number of wildfires larger than 25,000 acres on U.S. Forest Service land in the West nearly quadrupled in the decade to 2014, compared with the 1980s, according to data from the Department of the Interior.

The number of U.S. homes destroyed in wildfires almost tripled to 12,242 in 2017 from the previous year, according to U.S. Forest Service data, largely due to giant blazes in California that killed 43 people.

DROUGHT TURBOCHARGING FIRES

What’s driving the wildfires is exceptional drought conditions in large areas of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Severe droughts used to happen every four to five decades but are becoming frequent. In New Mexico, such dry periods have occurred in five years since 2000, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Kerry Jones in Albuquerque.

Nearly all of California faces abnormally dry or drought conditions, according to the Drought Monitor agency.

The state has had its worst start to the fire period in a decade, with 220,421 acres burned through Thursday morning, according to NIFC data.

In Colorado, preliminary figures show 431,540 acres have burned year to date, nearly four times the 111,667 acres blackened during all of 2017, according to NIFC data.

By August, the risk of large wildfires will be at normal levels in much of the Southwest and Rocky Mountain areas, thanks to a forecast for strong summer rains, but risk levels will remain above normal in California through October, according to NIFC data.

RISING TEMPERATURES

Rising average temperatures in the West are also stoking fires. Areas such as northern New Mexico and southern Colorado have been in long-term drought since around 2000.

“We’re in a global (temperature) change drought,” said Peter Brown, director of Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Higher temperatures have helped extend the period of wildfires by 60 to 80 days each year, NIFC spokeswoman Jennifer Jones said.

“We’re not calling it a fire season anymore, we’re referring to a fire year,” she said.

An expected 1.8 Fahrenheit (1C) temperature rise by mid-century is expected to double or triple the annual acreage burned from a current 7 million acres average, according to a study by the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Agriculture.

UNHEALTHY FORESTS

A fire needs fuel to burn, and there is a lot of that in the U.S. West’s overgrown and often unhealthy forests.

Since the 1950s, the U.S. government pursued a fire suppression policy that sharply reduced the acreage burned but caused forests to become choked with underbrush and trees, allowing invasive species to enter. In the southwest, bark beetles have killed billions of conifers now providing fuel for infernos.

In California, invasive species like cheatgrass offer the perfect fuel for fire to spread. Millions of trees and bushes killed by California’s 2012-2017 drought are another fuel source.

“TSUNAMIS OF FLAME”

Southeast Colorado’s Spring Creek fire, the second largest in the state’s history at 108,000 acres, is an example of the kind of “perfect fire storm” menacing the West, said firefighter Ben Brack, 42, information officer on the blaze.

Burning at thousands of degrees with 300-foot-high “tsunamis of flame” fanned by erratic winds, Brack called it the most “explosive” fire he has seen. The fire has destroyed upwards of 148 homes, according to Costilla County authorities.

Brack compares such blazes to hurricanes or tornadoes for firefighters’ inability to stop them.

Fire crews get people out of the way, save what homes they can, and create fire breaks many miles from the flames. These fires may only be fully extinguished by the first snows of winter, Brack said.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)

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)

Winds fanning wildfires won’t die down until Tuesday, thousands of homes evacuated: NWS

A plane drops fire-retardant chemicals on the 416 Fire near Durango, California, U.S. in this June 9, 2018 handout photo. La Plata County/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Gusting winds driving the flames of a largely uncontrolled wildfire are expected to keep fanning the blaze through an 11th day on Monday on the bone-dry hills of southwest Colorado, where more than 2,000 homes have already been evacuated.

“This is not good news for them,” said Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“There’s no rain in sight and the winds are going to be 15 mph with higher gusts all day. That’s a bad combination,” he said.

More powerful wind gusts of 35-45 mph (56-72 km/h) helped drive a largely unchecked wildfire north of Durango to nearly double in size from Saturday to Sunday.

There were no new burn-area updates early on Monday for the so-called 416 Fire in southwest Colorado but, according to the last update, it had burned nearly 17,000 acres (6,880 hectares) by Sunday evening, an area larger than Manhattan.

More than 800 firefighters were battling the blaze located north of Durango, which was 10 percent contained, the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team said.

While the winds were dropping on Monday to about 25 mph, Oravec said it was only modest good news.

“It’s still a fan on the fire,” Oravec said. “It won’t be until Tuesday before the winds really die down.”

No structures have been destroyed so far but the fire was a few hundred yards from homes, with multiple aircraft dropping water and flame retardant to curtail the blaze, according to Inciweb, an interagency fire report.

“The terrain is rough and inaccessible in many areas,” the report said. June 30 was the estimated date for containment, it said.

The NWS has placed large portions of the so-called Four Corners region of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona under a red flag warning of extreme fire danger due to the dry conditions.

A near-record 10 million acres (4 million hectares) were burned in U.S. wildfires in 2017, the National Interagency Coordination Center said.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Paul Tait)