New Mexico, Colorado, California fires burn thousands of acres

The Ute fire in New Mexico grew to 31,930 acres on Sunday, as it burned 14 outbuildings and threatened 296 structures. Photo courtesy NM State Forestry

June 3 (UPI) — Fires in New Mexico, Colorado and California continued to burn thousands of acres Sunday.

New Mexico’s Ute fire grew to 31,930 acres on Sunday as forecasts of strong thunderstorms in the area raised concerns about about flash flooding on burn scars and the possibility of lightning strikes causing more fires, according to the New Mexico State Forestry Division.

A mandatory evacuation was ordered for residents of Ute Park on Saturday night. The community of Cimarron was also placed under mandatory evacuation as the blaze threatened 296 structures in the area.

About 14 outbuildings were destroyed at the Philmont Scout Ranch as a result of the fire.

Firefighters conducted successful burn operations on Saturday and formed a dozer line around Ute Park to protect the community from the fire.

Fire 416 in Colorado grew to 2,255 acres and was 10 percent contained on Sunday, the Rocky Mountain Blue Team said.

The team assumed command over the 416 Fire early Sunday morning and planned to check for hotspots and reopen Highway 550.

Like in New Mexico, firefighters in Colorado said forecasted storms could help dampen the fire, but warned increased winds and lightning could make battling the blaze more difficult and spark new fires.

Evacuations for 1,500 residents also remained in effect, according to the La Plata County government.

Most evacuation orders for Laguna Beach were lifted Sunday as firefighters continued to combat a brush fire.

About 400 firefighters worked overnight Saturday to combat the Aliso Fire, which decreased to about 150 acres and 10 percent containment, the Orange County Fire Authority said.

Mandatory evacuation orders for about 2,000 homes in the city of Aliso Viejo were lifted as of 9 p.m. Saturday, and Laguna Beach Police Department released a map showing much of the area was no longer in evacuation protocol Sunday afternoon.


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