Firefighters battle Colorado wildfire under dry, hot conditions

A plane drops fire-retardant chemicals on the 416 Fire near Durango, Colorado, on June 9, 2018.
A plane drops fire-retardant chemicals on the 416 Fire near Durango, Colorado, on June 9, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN (Reuters) - Firefighters battling a raging wildfire in southwestern Colorado faced more hot, dry conditions and gusty winds on Tuesday (June 12), officials said.

The 416 Fire has already forced people to flee about 2,000 homes in the 11 days since it started while pre-evacuation notices were issued for another 127 homes on Monday, officials in La Plata County said.

Temperatures would reach the mid 30 deg C and winds up to 40km an hour on Tuesday, the US Forest Service said. Humidity was expected to stay low, at around 6 per cent, it added.

After doubling in size from Saturday to Sunday, the wildfire, 20km north of the small city of Durango, covered 8,147ha and was just 15 per cent contained, the service said.

The 416 Fire - named after its emergency service call number - is by far the largest of at least a half-dozen blazes raging across Colorado.

A 50km stretch of US Highway 550, which has served as a buffer for homes on the eastern edge of the fire, was closed, officials said.

All 720,000ha of the San Juan National Forest in south-western Colorado were due to be closed to visitors by Tuesday, the US Department of Agriculture said, citing the fire danger.

No buildings have been destroyed so far, but flames had crept to within a few hundred metres of homes. Aircraft have been dropping water and flame retardant, according to fire information website InciWeb.

The site said containment was not expected before the end of the month.

The National Weather Service posted red-flag warnings for extreme fire danger for large portions of the Four Corners region of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.