New wildfire erupts near Colorado ski resorts, houses

Entire San Juan National Forest To Be Closed To Public

The Buffalo Fire broke out Tuesday on a mountain near Silverthorne in Summit County, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,300 homes.

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.

Crews battling what's called the 416 Fire have their hands full with gusty winds, dry conditions and raging flames.

Summit Fire and U.S. Forest Service crews are responding to the fire. Evacuations are in order for Wildernest and Mesa Cortina neighborhoods.

The residences and businesses will remain under pre-evacuation orders, and residents will be subject to the limited opening hours of Highway 550, which was to close at 8 p.m. Thursday.

"We really just want to go home". More than 900 people are fighting the blaze, officials said. "We're definitely asking the firefighters to keep their eyes open and their heads up and pay attention to any changes in the weather".

The fire is burning in lodgepole pine and in an area of the forest that sustained heavy beetle kill in recent years.

In southwest Colorado, officials told residents of almost 350 homes to be prepared to leave if dry thunderstorms, high heat and gusty winds spread a wildfire that has blackened more than 50 square miles (130 square kilometers) and is seen as extremely unsafe for firefighters.

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The west side of the 416 Fire is burning at over 8,000 feet in terrain that is hard for ground resources.

Incident commander Todd Pechota told evacuated residents Saturday that the situation is "going to get worse before it gets better", the Herald reported.

The Santa Fe forest closure began June 1, and the San Juan closure began Tuesday morning.

Fire risks are at "historic levels", San Juan National Forest Fire Staff Officer Richard Bustamante said, adding, "Under current conditions, one abandoned campfire or spark could cause a catastrophic wildfire, and we are not willing to take that chance with the natural and cultural resources under our protection and care, or with human life and property". This year, almost 24,000 wildfires have burned more than 1.7 million acres across the country.

The fire has only been 15% contained since it was first reported on June 1.

The move comes as the residents of over 2,000 homes have been forced to evacuate because of a fire that started in the forest that has burned about 31 square miles (about 80 square kilometers).

The fire is still under investigation.

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