Colorado wildfires displace thousands, prompt national forest closure

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The announcement came today after a month of increasing fire restrictions in the forest and worsening wildfires in the area.

"Given the fire behavior that we've been seeing and the amount of fire on the landscape and the amount of structures in the area, that's a really good thing", Knight said. "We need to take every action possible to reduce the risk of human-caused fires".

Firefighters say residents of hundreds of other homes have been warned to be ready to evacuate because of the fire, which as burned about 90 acres.

While the two active fires were taken into consideration when opting to close the forest, other factors went into the decision, such as weather conditions, fire fighting resources available and fuel moisture level. This year, almost 24,000 wildfires have burned more than 1.7 million acres across the country.

The situation was better in central Washington, where authorities lifted evacuation orders or warnings for about 50 residents as crews work to contain a wildfire burning grass and brush. It had burned roughly 500 acres as of Sunday morning.

All 1.8 million acres of the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado were due to be closed to visitors by Tuesday, the US Department of Agriculture said, citing the fire danger. On Sunday, efforts were focused on evacuation, public safety and fire assessment.

At this time the cause of the fire is unknown, but the origin of the fire is near Forest Road 501, and between Badger Creek and the North Fork of Pelton Creek. The location is two miles north of the Wyoming/Colorado state line.

The Ute Park Fire in New Mexico began May 31 and forced 2,200 people in the area to evacuate their homes within the first three days of the blaze. Pre-evacuation orders are in place for Foxborough, Foxpark and Miller Lake and Voos said those communities should be prepared to evacuate if County officials ask them to.

The Incident Command Post has been established at the Harmony School, west of Laramie, on Highway 230.

The dry conditions and wind in the area were making the fire hard to fight, despite the roughly 70 people who were assigned to the fire, according to the Incident Information System.

Because so much of the West's economy depends on tourists who hike, fish and camp on public lands, private businesses are eyeing the closures with concern.

The smoke from the wildfire has affected air quality, Graham said.

With the announcement, officials will close forest campgrounds, day use areas, roads, and trails. Exemptions might be granted on a case-by-case basis with a written authorization from the Forest Service, which would include specific requirements for fire prevention.

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