Thousands of acres ablaze in Colorado, New Mexico and California
By Dakin Andone, Dave Alsup and Amir Vera, CNN
Massive wildfires in California, Colorado and New Mexico have torched thousands of acres and forced hundreds to evacuate their homes.
By Sunday, the Ute Park Fire in New Mexico had grown to more than 31,000 acres, according to the US Forest Service spokeswoman Judith Dyess.
Since it broke out Thursday, the fire has forced 2,200 people in the area to evacuate their homes, Dyess told CNN. The small community of Ute Park, with a population of about 70, was evacuated overnight.
Officials are hopeful that rain in Sunday’s forecast will give firefighters battling the blaze a short reprieve.
“We anticipate getting pretty severe thunderstorms this afternoon,” Dyess said, but added that there won’t be enough rain to significantly change long-term prospects for the fire.
On Saturday, the US Forest Service said more than 500 personnel were fighting the blaze.
Jim Smith told CNN Saturday he noticed the fire on a hill above his home in the nearby village of Eagle Nest. At the time, he thought it was a small trash fire.
“It’s been so dry here that once a fire starts in our part of the country, it expands rapidly,” he said.
“By the time I got home, in about 15 minutes, it was covering probably four square blocks. And half an hour later, almost a square mile.”
Smith and his family voluntarily evacuated, he said. It’ll be another day or so before they’ll feel safe returning home, he said.
So far, about 14 outbuildings have been destroyed at the Philmont Scout Ranch, according to the US Forest Service. The ranch, which belongs to the Boy Scouts of America, had already been evacuated by the time the fire closed in on it.
Colorado fire prompts state of local disaster
A blaze known as the 416 Fire in Colorado’s La Plata County had grown to 2,250 acres and was 10% contained on Sunday, according to authorities.
Like officials in New Mexico, Colorado’s firefighters were looking for help from two storms forecast for the area, according to Vickie Russo with the US Forest Service.
Russo said authorities were in discussions to reopen US 550, a major traffic artery between Silverton and Durango, Colorado. The highway had been shut down while firefighters worked to prevent the 416 Fire — burning on the west side of the highway — from crossing to the east.
But since then, Russo said, businesses and residents in Durango have had trouble getting their hands on supplies. The highway may be opened to traffic with law enforcement escorts, Russo said.
Thousands of residents in the area remained evacuated Sunday.
By Friday evening, the blaze had prompted La Plata County Manager Joanne Spina to declare a state of local disaster.
US Forest Service spokesman Jim Mackensen told CNN on Saturday that 1,500 residents had been forced to evacuate.
Thousands flee fire in Laguna Beach
A vegetation fire in Laguna Beach, California, about 50 miles south of Los Angeles, has torched about 250 acres. More than 400 firefighters are fighting the blaze, according to the Orange County Fire Authority. There was 0% containment as of Saturday night.
No injuries or damaged structures have been reported in the blaze, dubbed the Aliso Fire, but about 2,000 Laguna Beach residents had been evacuated by Saturday.
Some of the mandatory evacuations were lifted Saturday night, but they remained in effect for the Top of the World neighborhood, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.