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Colorado wildfires raging with little relief in sight

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-06-12 23:38

DENVER, the United States  -- Firefighters from across the west are scrambling to Colorado as two major wildfires have closed the San Juan National Forest (SJNF) for the first time in its 113-year history.

The 416 Fire has consumed 22,131 acres (89.6 square km) Monday evening, and the nearby Burro Fire 1,000 acres (4.04 square km) -- each doubling in size in just 48 hours -- with close to 1,000 firefighters working on both and with neither blaze more than 15 percent contained, according to Inciweb.

SJNF's website Monday night announced closing the massive 1.8-million-acre (4047 square km) forest that stretches across nine counties "until moisture" relieves the drought-stricken forests, probably when the monsoon season arrives later next month.

Firefighters from three states worked through Sunday night to save the town of Hermosa Creek and hundreds of homes. A total of 2,200 homes have been evacuated so far.

No injuries or fatalities have been reported from either fire, and the cause of each is under investigation. The 416 Fire began on June 1 and the Burro Fire on June 8.

"The (416) fire burned right up to the edge of Hermosa," Shawn Bawden, fire spokesman, told the Denver News-Post. "We're happy to say no one has been injured and no homes have been burned. It speaks to the professionalism of the firefighters."

The 416 wildfire was advancing at the rate of one mile (1.6 km) an hour until it reached fire lines built by hundreds of firefighters, Bawden said. A total of 813 firefighters are now fighting the 416.

The advancing fire, burning about 13 miles (21.9 km) north of the city of Durango in Colorado, triggered mandatory evacuations of 675 homes Sunday, including some at Purgatory Resort.

In the little, remote Durango, businesses were recoiling from the news that the 800,000 to 1 million tourists who typically visit the city of 17,000 before entering the SJNF will not be in the picture this summer.

"Under current conditions, one abandoned campfire or spark could cause a catastrophic wildfire, and we are not willing to take that chance with the natural and cultural resources under our protection and care, or with human life and property," Richard Bustamante, SJNF forest fire staff officer, told the Post.

Although the National Weather Service forecast for the area a chance of thunderstorms and showers from Thursday through Sunday, SJNF officials said the rain likely would not bring enough moisture to reopen the forest.

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