A largely uncontrolled wildfire ignited Tuesday in an area of central Colorado famous for its ski resorts, resulting in the evacuation of over 1,300 homes. It is the latest of more than six fires that have erupted across the Western United States.
The blaze, named the Buffalo Fire, quickly spread across 100 acres on Tuesday and came alarmingly close to housing developments located approximately 60 miles west of Denver, The Mercury News reported.
“This area, there is a lot of homes that are pretty tightly packed together,” said Adam Bianchi, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman. “Being a resort town, there’s a need for a lot of housing, and there’s only so much available space for good land to build on.”
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According to Bianchi, the fire came within 200 yards from an area populated with condos, apartments and homes. Keystone, a ski resort, was only 8 miles away from the blaze.
A team of firefighters were at the scene resisting the wildfire, with 50 initially dispatched but more sent later along with helicopters and air tankers. No homes have been destroyed in the fire.
Steve Prosise, with the Summit County’s environmental health office, said that smoke levels were not a safety concern, CNN reported. "We have not lost any structures at this point," the agency wrote Tuesday on Twitter.
The 416 Fire—Colorado’s largest conflagration, which has been ongoing for 13 days—continued to burn 13 miles north of Durango and around the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado. On Tuesday, the blaze had grown to 23,378 acres and was 15 percent contained.
The origin of the massive fire remains unclear. It emerged around the drought-stricken Four Corners, the meeting point of Arizona, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, WABI-TV reported
Since the 416 ignited on June 1, residents of over 2,000 homes have been ordered to flee, and 900 firefighters have been brought in to battle the flames. The Official 416 Fire Information Facebook page announced last night that the evacuation order for residents in San Juan County will lift at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, a Stage 3 fire restriction forced the San Juan National Forest to close its doors to visitors. “In the interest of public health, safety and welfare, the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners enacted Stage 3 fire restrictions, effective immediately,” the 416 Fire Information Facebook page wrote.
According to its website, the San Juan National Forest, which is in the southwestern corner of Colorado, covers 1.8 million acres of land. Those who violate the closure and are caught inside the forest could face a fine of $5,000 and six months in prison. It is unclear when it will reopen.
"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 Richard Bustamante, the national forest's fire staff officer, CNN reported.
Governor John Hickenlooper confirmed that his state has been assigning a large amount of resources to combat the fires. "Our state agencies are here to support you. As we have proved time and time again, Coloradans are resilient," he said.
This story was updated with comments from Steve Prosise and Governor John Hickenlooper.
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