Colorado wildfire spreads as winds strengthen

The Latest Colorado fire forces evacuation of more homes

The Latest Colorado fire forces evacuation of more homes

Authorities in southwest Colorado ordered the evacuations of another 300 homes Friday to allow firefighters to attack an advancing flank of a wildfire that burned miles of rugged terrain, but had yet to damage or destroy any structures.

The fire started June 1 but the cause hasn't been determined.

"After these evacuations, we know we're in this for the long haul, "La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt said Saturday night, according to a Durango Herald reporter".

Gusting winds driving the flames of a largely uncontrolled wildfire are expected to keep fanning the blaze through an 11th day on Monday on the bone-dry hills of southwest Colorado, where more than 2,000 homes have already been evacuated.

More powerful wind gusts of 35-45 miles per hour (56-72 km/h) helped drive a largely unchecked wildfire north of Durango to almost double in size from Saturday to Sunday. But at about 5:45 p.m. MDT Friday the San Juan National Forest reported the fire had crossed the creek just west of Lower Hermosa Campground.

"It is better to give people a window for evacuations instead of, 'You need to leave right now because the fire is in your backyard, '" Russo said.

A new blaze about 13 miles to the west, known as the Burro fire, prompted U.S. Forest Service officials on Saturday to close part of the Colorado trail in the San Juan National Forest.

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The blaze was 10 percent contained on Friday, and full containment isn't expected until June 30.

Another fire started at around 4pm on Friday afternoon in Montezuma County, Colorado.

Smoke has reached unhealthy levels in La Plata County as far south as the Colorado-New Mexico border, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. It comes amid a severe drought in the Four Corners area where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet.

The fire has burned 26 square miles (67 square kilometers) as of Sunday, up from almost 14 square miles (36 square kilometers) Saturday.

As many as 1,300 homes have been evacuated.

A near-record 10 million acres (4 million hectares) were burned in USA wildfires in 2017, the National Interagency Coordination Center said.

More than 680 firefighters and several aircraft are on scene.

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