June 13, 2018 / 10:31 AM / a year ago

Gusty winds persist, spreading fires in western U.S.

(Reuters) - Prime conditions for wildfires prevailed again on Wednesday in the western United States, where firefighters are battling to gain control over several large blazes that have forced the evacuation of more than 4,400 homes.

The largest and most threatening blaze, the 416 Fire, has scorched nearly 26,000 acres (10,522 hectares) of drought-parched grass, brush and timber at the edge of the San Juan National Forest near the southwestern Colorado town of Durango.

Wind gusts up to 25 miles per hour (40 kph), temperatures in the mid 80s (about 30 Celsius) and humidity of less than 15 percent are expected later on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

Fire crews by Wednesday morning had contained 15 percent of the fire, fire officials said.

Some 1,400 homes there remained under evacuation orders, after residents of 760 homes were allowed to return on Wednesday, La Plata County officials said.

The 416 Fire and a separate blaze burning nearby, the Burro Fire, also prompted state parks officials to close several wildlife areas to the public. The U.S. Forest Service shut down all 1.8 million acres (728,434 hectares) of the San Juan National Forest to visitors on Tuesday.

Across the state about 60 miles (95 km) west of Denver, a newer blaze called the Buffalo Fire prompted the evacuation of nearly 1,400 homes after blackening 91 acres (37 hectares), officials in Summit County said. Winds will gust up to 25 miles per hour later on Wednesday to fan this fire, officials said.

Its containment was listed at 0 percent by fire officials.

At least seven major wildfires were raging in parts of Colorado, marking the biggest concentration of roughly 30 blazes burning across nine Western states.

No people have been injured or structures lost in the Colorado fires.

FILE PHOTO: A satellite image shows the 416 Wildfire burning west of Highway 550 and northwest of Hermosa, Colorado, U.S., June 10, 2018. Image captured June 10, 2018. Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company /Handout via REUTERS

Firefighters were hoping for some relief from a promising shift in weather patterns forecast for Friday, some of it associated with Hurricane Bud, which on Wednesday was off the Pacific coast of Mexico.

In southern Wyoming near the Colorado border, the Badger Creek Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest has grown to 5,200 acres (2,104 hectares), as evacuation orders were expanded to nearly 400 homes in Albany County, according to the Inciweb online U.S. fire information service.

The Wyoming fire containment was listed as 0 percent by fire officials.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Bill Berkrot

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