Forest Closed and Thousands Evacuated as Colorado Wildfires Grow

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Fire grows to 29,147 acresThe 416 Fire grew to 29,147 acres as of Thursday morning. "Things are looking really pretty good right now". Springtime predictions of a wild summer of blazes across the state appear to be proving themselves true - and with a fervor. Luber says if the fire gets close enough the interstate may have to close. "As we have proved time and time again, Coloradans are resilient".

A 3-D map looking northwest showing the fires north and northwest of Durango, Colorado.

"Make no bones about it, our number one priority is the safety of incident responders", said Todd Pechota, the incident commander.

A fire reported Tuesday in a part of Colorado known for its ski resorts has forced the evacuation of more than 1,300 homes.

In southwest Colorado, officials told residents of almost 350 homes to be prepared to leave if dry thunderstorms, high heat and gusty winds spread a wildfire that has blackened more than 50 square miles (130 square kilometers) and is seen as extremely unsafe for firefighters.

The blazes destroyed more than 12,300 homes and other structures. "The indices our fire team uses to predict fire danger are at historic levels well before we can expect any significant moisture from the seasonal monsoons", SJNF Forest Fire Staff Officer, Richard Bustamante said. So far no buildings have been lost to the fire. Air support was also in play yesterday as two VLATs and four heavy air tankers worked the fire Monday.

More than 500 evacuation notices previously handed to residents and businesses in the area have been lifted as firefighters continue to tackle the blaze. The smoke is also impacting the Happy Jack area. Summit Fire/EMS Chief Jeff Berino said emergency dispatchers were "inundated" with calls.

Flames engulf trees in the Wildernest neighbourhood. From 1992 to 2012, "the human-caused fire season was three times longer than the lightning-caused fire season and added an average of 40,000 wildfires per year across the United States", researchers wrote in 2017. "We haven't received any information on that yet".

"I ask the public to continue to be flexible knowing our goal is to open the highway and allow people back to their homes", La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith said.

"We've got to watch the fire and the activity and what it's going to do", he said.

Fire officials are more concerned that thunderstorms in the area could produce dry lightning and bring gusty winds of 40 miles per hour.

Roads in the area of the evacuation zone have been shut down.

A host of recreational trails near the fire have been closed indefinitely.

Summit County Animal Control is helping to retrieve pets.