Fire danger to shut much of Cibola National Forest

Fire danger to shut much of Cibola National Forest

The 416 fire - the largest wildfire in the state - has burned more than 23,000 acres in La Plata County near the state's border with New Mexico, county spokeswoman Megan Graham said. "And then assessing any sort of damage or potential for where the fire could move", Voos said.

Firefighters battled to gain control over several large wildfires in Colorado on Tuesday, including two fires burning at opposite ends of the state that have prompted the evacuation of more than 3,500 homes and the closure of a national forest.

The fire burning 10 miles north of Durango had consumed 42 square miles as of Thursday morning and was 15 percent contained.

Investigators say a wildfire that scorched an area of Colorado known for its ski resorts, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,300 homes, was likely human-caused.

No one has been hurt and no structures have burned down.

Voos said people who have been evacuated can not return to their properties to retrieve belongings, as officials need to know that the area is clear. Knowingly violating the closures brings a mandatory federal court appearance and could draw a fine of up to $5,000 and six months in prison.

The forest, which covers more than 1.8 million acres in western Colorado, announced the closure is intended "to protect natural resources and public safety".

The federal government spent a record $2.9 billion to suppress last year's fires, Forest Service officials said.

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Gov. John Hickenlooper commended crews for their fast response. Voos said, "we're anticipating that we're not going to get a foothold with this thing for a while here".

The situation was better in central Washington, where authorities lifted evacuation orders or warnings for about 50 residents as crews work to contain a wildfire burning grass and brush.

As the 416 wildfire turned another 1,247 acres of heavy pine forest into ash and charred stumps in a 24-hour period, a battalion of firefighters notched yet another day without the fire injuring any of the 1,100 firefighters or destroying any of the 2,700 evacuated homes.

Voos said Highway 230 remains open, however visibility could be obscured at times due to smoke.

A satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows the 416 Fire northwest of Hermosa, Colo., which has forced the closure of the San Juan National Forest. The cause of the fire is unknown and is 0 percent contained.

UPDATE (3:40 p.m.) The fire is now estimated at 150 acres, according to InciWeb.

Voos says 393 homes in the area have been evacuated since the fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest was first reported on Sunday.

A fire in California that burned nearly 200 acres has been contained, officials said.

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