Colorado wildfire doubles in size, hundreds more evacuations underway

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(Reuters) – A Colorado wildfire nearly doubled in size from Saturday to Sunday and prompted hundreds more evacuations as dry and windy conditions were expected to persist, officials said.

The so-called 416 Fire in southwest Colorado had burned nearly 17,000 acres by Sunday morning, an area larger than Manhattan. The fire located north of Durango was 10 percent contained, the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team said.

The fire had burned about 9,000 acres by early on Saturday, according to an aerial survey.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued on Sunday for approximately 675 residences, bringing the total number of homes under evacuation to almost 2,000, La Plata County, Colorado, spokeswoman Megan Graham said.

Law enforcement officials are going door to door and residents have been warned to leave via calls to their phones, text message and emails, Graham said.

Low humidity and high winds have left firefighters bracing for the fire to spread and the weather was expected to be dry and windy on Sunday.

Images on social media showed large plumes of smoke disseminating above mountains against a backdrop of blue sky.

A blaze known as the Burro fire prompted U.S. Forest Service officials on Saturday to close part of the Colorado trail in the San Juan National Forest.

In addition, an air quality health advisory was extended on Sunday due to unhealthy levels of smoke, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

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

The same agency issued a June forecast for “above-normal significant large fire potential” in Southern California and the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, because of a deepening drought and ample fuel for wildfires.

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

Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker



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