A regional drought is being blamed for the intensity of the rapid spread of the fires.
Massive wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico have already incinerated nearly 30 thousand 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.
…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, a US government-operated multiagency fire response site. 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, according to an update on InciWeb.
The fires had no containment and the cause was under investigation. A regional drought is being blamed for the intensity of the rapid spread of the fires.
Officials also said the fire danger forced the closure of the Santa Fe National Forest Friday morning, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. It will remain closed until conditions improve, the report added.
“Under current conditions, one abandoned campfire 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,” National Forest Supervisor James Melonas said in a statement to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Northern New Mexico has been in a prolonged period of extreme drought. Areas in and around Ute Park are currently in exceptional drought – the worst category – according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Thunderstorms are due in the impacted areas Sunday, though there is some concern that they could cause a new set of problems.
The shifting winds may spread smoke from the fire into southeastern Colorado. The smoke is already creating poor air quality across northeastern New Mexico. Motorists planning to travel on Interstate 25 through the area should remain alert for reduced visibility through the weekend.
“Much needed rain is in the forecast for Sunday afternoon and evening,” Pydynowski said. “However, thunderstorms are also expected and can prove problematic for firefighters by kicking up gusty and erratic winds, along with lightning dangers.”
There is a risk that the thunderstorms also produce damaging winds, hail and flash flooding. Lightning can also strike new blazes outside of where it is raining across New Mexico, southern Colorado and into parts of western Oklahoma and Texas.
In a shock video moment, men share their narrow escape from the Ute Park fire in northern New Mexico.
Prayers are going out to our friends in New Mexico and Colorado.
A large #wildfire ignited and spread rapidly in #NewMexico yesterday prompting evacuation orders. #GOESEast captured the smoke from the fires seen here in this 4 hour satellite imagery loop. #nmwx See more fire imagery: https://t.co/P1F11zXUHI pic.twitter.com/8C0O4aEWnD
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) June 1, 2018
— KOB 4 (@KOB4) June 1, 2018
— BLM Oregon & Washington (@BLMOregon) May 12, 2017
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