(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)