Hundreds of residents ordered to evacuate as Colorado wildfire rages

(Reuters) – Hundreds of residents in a small town in southwest Colorado were ordered to evacuate on Thursday morning as hot, dry and windy conditions stoked a nearby wildfire that has gone largely unchecked for days.

Authorities will begin going door to door at 6 a.m. local time to carry out a mandatory evacuation in Hermosa, Colorado as a nearby blaze dubbed the 416 Fire has grown to 4,015 acres (1,625 hectares), federal fire and local officials said.

About 1,250 residences have been issued pre-evacuation notices in the area, La Plata County said.

Temperatures in the mid 80s and 15 mile (25 km) per hour winds and low humidity are in the forecast for the area on Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

The 617 firefighters battling the blaze were preparing “for another challenging day,” the National Forest Service said in an alert.

The fire, which remained 10 percent contained, has expanded to the north, the west and the south but has not crossed U.S. Highway 550, which has helped firefighters protect 825 houses east of the highway, a spokeswoman for La Plata County said.

Residents of those 825 houses were ordered to evacuate after the fire started on Friday.

Vehicles are being allowed to travel through the area on Highway 550 in single-file convoys protected and escorted by law enforcement officers, Graham said.

The 416 Fire – named, local media said, after its official incident number – has burned over steep terrain sending smoke billowing into the sky.

Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the blaze, said Cam Hooley, spokeswoman for the San Juan National Forest.

The Durango Herald reported that a retired volunteer firefighter noticed the fire last Friday morning.

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.

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

Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Lisa Shumaker

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