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Forest Closed and Thousands Evacuated as Colorado Wildfires Grow

2 minute read

Wildfires continued burning across parts of Colorado Tuesday, as firefighters rushed to contain the flames ignited amid a dangerous drought across the western U.S.

In Colorado’s southwest, authorities have shuttered the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado and residents of more than 2,000 homes were forced to evacuate. No homes had been destroyed, the Associated Press reports.

The 416 fire, as it is known, was 15% contained Tuesday evening, according to the La Plata County government. MOre than 900 firefighters were trying to control the blaze, according the AP.

The fire covers more than 23,000 acres, according to the latest updates on federal wildfire database Inciweb.

The 416 fire started on July 1 near Durango, Colorado and has spread due to “exceptional drought conditions.” Its cause is not yet known. Forest authorities shut down the 1.8 million acre forest Monday to avoid further devastation.

“Under current conditions, one abandoned campfire or spark 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, or with human life and property,” said San Juan National Forest Fire Staff Officer Richard Bustamante.

Further north, the Buffalo wildfire that broke out Tuesday has already caused residents of 1,400 homes to evacuate in Colorado’s Summit County, according to CNN. Another 1,160 homes are on pre-evacuation notice.

Fires in New Mexico have also caused Forest Service authorities to close the Santa Fe National Forest and Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands.

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Write to Eli Meixler at eli.meixler@time.com