Rains expected to help teams battling US wildfires

Red flag warnings remain in effect for southern Nevada, southern Utah and western Colorado

Denver, Colorado: Firefighters battling several unrelenting wildfires in the US Southwest will likely get a reprieve thanks to heavy thunderstorms and widespread rains this weekend after facing yet another day of windy and dry weather on Friday.

But red flag warnings remained in effect overnight for southern Nevada, southern Utah and western Colorado, where wind gusts could reach 72 kilometres an hour, the National Weather Service said.

Although the wet weather could help efforts to battle two dozen wildfires that are currently burning in the region, it could also cause flash floods, the National Weather Service added.

The largest and most threatening blaze is the 416 Fire, which has scorched nearly 13,000 hectares of drought-parched grass, brush and timber at the edge of the San Juan National Forest near the southwestern Colorado town of Durango.

Fire officials said on Friday that crews had contained 18 per cent of that blaze.

Efforts have at times been stalled or shut down entirely as people persist in sending aerial drones toward the flames, presumably in the hope of capturing spectacular pictures and videos of the inferno, according to the Bureau of Land Management in Colorado.

The drones endanger the safety of pilots flying tankers and helicopters to battle the fire, officials said.

Officials lifted evacuation orders for some 375 residences and 19 businesses in the area. Nearly 1,000 residences and businesses remained under evacuation orders, La Plata County officials said.

The 416 Fire and a separate, smaller blaze burning nearby, the Burro Fire, prompted state parks officials to close several wildlife areas to the public. The US Forest Service has closed all 700,000 hectares of the San Juan National Forest to visitors.

About 100 kilometres west of Denver, evacuations from 1,400 homes were lifted on Thursday near the 32-hectare Buffalo Fire as crews gained 45 per cent containment around the blaze, fire officials said.

No one has been injured and no structures have been lost in the Colorado fires, but nine homes were destroyed in a small wildfire in Utah.

In southern Wyoming near the Colorado border, the Badger Creek Fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest has ballooned to nearly 6,000 hectares, according to the Inciweb online US fire information service.

The Wyoming fire containment was listed as zero per cent by fire officials. About 400 homes in Albany County have been ordered to evacuate, and one home and two outbuildings have been destroyed by the flames, fire incident spokesman Chris Barth said by telephone.

The fire also has prompted the closure of about 20,000 hectares of the 1.1-million hectare national forest, and 6,500 hectares of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest and Pawnee National Grasslands in neighbouring Colorado, he said.


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