Forest Service to close San Juan National Forest for first time ever

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The 416 Fire also blazing in the Centennial State had consumed 42 square miles and was 15 percent contained. No structures have been lost.

"If, for example, someone was out bike riding and got injured, our resources are tied up with the fire", Blake said.

Authorities say a fast-moving brush fire has destroyed eight homes in the southern Utah tourist town of Moab and that more than 3,000 people in Colorado and Wyoming remain under evacuation orders because of other wildfires. The SJNF implemented Stage 1 fire restrictions on May 1, then Stage 2 fire restrictions on June 1, but conditions continued to worsen.

Early on, fire commanders identified U.S. Highway 550 as a critical battle line to protect homes east of the road while mostly allowing the wildfire to burn away from small towns and developments including Hermosa Creek.

Mayor Sweetie Marbury said Monday the closure is a necessary one.

Though thunderstorms in the next few days could bring much-needed moisture to the area, officials are anxious the storm could bring lightning and gusty winds that lead to unpredictable fire behavior.

Colorado's latest closure will also bar non-recreational uses, although ranchers, for example, who use some of the forest's over 2,800 square miles for grazing will be able to seek exemptions, San Juan National Forest spokeswoman Cam Hooley said. It's punishable by fine up to $5,000, six months in prison, or both.

Bianchi said the Buffalo Fire had come to within about 200 yards (183 meters) of a subdivision that includes condos, apartments and pricey homes.

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"Our state agencies are here to support you". Voos said, "we're anticipating that we're not going to get a foothold with this thing for a while here". La Plata County Manager Joanne Spina declared a state of local disaster that day as a result of the fire, which led 1,500 residents to evacuate.

Graham said earlier that 2,162 structures or homes have been evacuated since the beginning of the fire, and 500 residents are now on pre-evacuation.

In the southwest corner of Colorado, where crews are dealing with multiple fires in the San Juan forest, winds are lighter, but the heat continues with temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s.

The smoke from the wildfire has affected air quality, Graham said. Natural wildfires tend to occur in sparsely populated areas of the Mountain West, the study showed.

According to a U.S. Forest Service press release, officials began instituting fire restrictions in San Juan National Forest on May 1. This year, almost 24,000 wildfires have burned more than 1.7 million acres across the country.

A similarly sized fire previous year took months to finish burning.

A fire in California that burned nearly 200 acres has been contained, officials said.

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