More evacuations ordered as Colorado wildfire spreads

(Reuters) - Hundreds of people were ordered to evacuate their homes in southwestern Colorado on Thursday as hot, dry and windy conditions stoked a wildfire that was 90 percent uncontained, federal and local officials said.

Since breaking out a week ago, the 416 Fire has forced the evacuation of nearly 1,200 homes, including hundreds from the town of Hermosa on Thursday. Residents of 1,600 other homes have been told to be prepared for possible evacuation, said Megan Graham, spokeswoman for La Plata County.

The fire had burned over 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) by Thursday, officials said.

More than 600 firefighters battling the blaze were preparing for another “challenging day,” the National Forest Service said.

Temperatures in the mid 80s F (around 30 C) and 15-mile (25 km) per hour winds and low humidity were forecast for the area

on Friday with no rain in sight, the National Weather Service said.

The fire has expanded to the north, the west and the south but has not crossed U.S. Highway 550, which has helped firefighters protect houses east of the highway, La Plata County’s Graham said.

The National Weather Service has placed large sections of the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah under an elevated fire risk.

In northern New Mexico, a fire that started May 31 had burned 36,800 acres (14,900 hectares) by early Friday. The Ute Park Fire was 66 percent contained, with more than 600 firefighters also mobilized there, the fire service said.

While the fire continued to burn on Friday, it was surrounded by previously burned areas that would confine its spread, officials said.

No injuries or major damage to structures have been reported from either fire, officials said.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Leslie Adler and John Stonestreet