LA PLATA COUNTY, CO. — Massive wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico have torched thousands of acres and forced hundreds to evacuate their homes.
A blaze known as the 416 Fire in Colorado’s La Plata County has burned 1,100 acres, US Forest Service spokesman Jim Mackensen told CNN on Saturday.
The fire, about 15 miles outside the town of Durango, is 0% contained and has forced the evacuations of 1,500 residents, Mackensen said. No structures have been destroyed, he added.
By Friday evening, the blaze had prompted La Plata County Manager Joanne Spina to declare a state of local disaster.
Grass, brush and timber continued to fuel the fire on Saturday morning.
The fire broke out on the west side of US 550, according to a Forest Service update posted on InciWeb, a government-operated multiagency fire response site. That highway is closed as firefighters work to prevent the fire from crossing it.
About 825 homes were under mandatory evacuation orders Saturday, and another 760 were under a pre-evacuation notice. Residents were told to be ready to leave if necessary.
Temperatures in the area were still high, Mackensen said, adding the forecast for Sunday shows a 50% chance of thunderstorms. It should help, he said, but “being that they are thunderstorms, they could cause another fire.”
Hundreds of firefighters battling New Mexico fire
And a massive fire in Colfax County, New Mexico, had grown to 27,290 acres by Saturday morning and was 0% contained, according to InciWeb. Nearly 450 personnel were battling that fire.
A mandatory evacuation order was in place for the town of Cimarron, where 296 structures were threatened by the blaze, called the Ute Park Fire, InciWeb said.
Jim Smith told CNN he noticed the fire on a hill above his home in the nearby village of Eagle Nest. At the time, he thought it was a small trash fire.
“It’s been so dry here that once a fire starts in our part of the country, it expands rapidly,” he said.
“By the time I got home, in about 15 minutes, it was covering probably four square blocks. And half an hour later, almost a square mile.”
Smith and his family voluntarily evacuated, he said. It’ll be another day or so before they’ll feel safe returning home, he said.
So far, about 14 outbuildings have been destroyed at the Philmont Scout Ranch, according to the US Forest Service. The ranch, which belongs to the Boy Scouts of America, had already been evacuated by the time the fire closed in on it.
Forest Service spokeswoman Judith Dyess told CNN on Saturday morning that the fire was roughly 3 miles from Cimarron and burning in that direction. High winds, which could exacerbate the blaze, are forecast for Saturday, she said.