(Reuters) – Firefighters battling a raging wildfire in southwestern Colorado faced more hot, dry conditions and gusting winds on Tuesday, and significant rainfall relief was not expected until the weekend, officials said.
The so-called 416 Fire has forced the evacuation of about 2,150 homes since the blaze started on June 1. Residents of another 500 homes have been told they too might have to evacuate, La Plata County officials said.
Temperatures would reach the mid 80s Fahrenheit (around 30 Celsius) and winds up to 25 miles (40 km) an hour on Tuesday, the U.S. Forest Service said. Humidity was expected to stay low, at around 6 percent, it added.
Slight rains could occur on Thursday, but more substantial rainfall to help tamp down the blaze is not likely until the weekend, Michael Charnick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, Colorado, told Reuters on Tuesday morning.
Dry weather will continue until Thursday, he said, when light thunderstorms and showers could occur.
More promising is a shift in the weather pattern in the area of the fire beginning on Friday, some of it associated with Hurricane Bud, he said.
Significant rainfall is forecast to start around midday Saturday, Charnick said, with the heaviest rain occurring overnight Saturday into Sunday morning. But the weather pattern could shift, causing it to miss the wildfire area, he said.
After doubling in size from Saturday to Sunday, the wildfire, 13 miles north of the small city of Durango, covered 23,378 acres (9,461 hectares) and was just 15 percent contained, up from 10 percent over the weekend, said Cameron Eck, spokesman for the multi-agency team fighting the fire. Firefighters said Monday that full containment of the 416 Fire was not expected before the end of the month.
The 416 Fire – named after its emergency service call number – is by far the largest of at least a half-dozen blazes raging across Colorado.
All 1.8 million acres of the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado were due to be closed to visitors by Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, citing the fire danger.
No buildings have been destroyed so far, but flames had crept to within a few hundred yards of homes.
Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Steve Orlofsky