The Latest: Colorado forest to close due to fire danger
DURANGO, Colo. (AP) — The Latest on wildfires burning in Colorado (all times local):
Extreme fire danger is shutting southwestern Colorado’s San Juan National Forest, a rare tactic also being used in neighboring states as the U.S. Southwest struggles with severe drought.
Forest managers plan to close hundreds of miles of trails and thousands of miles of back roads to hikers, bikers, horseback riders and campers as soon as Tuesday. They want to prevent the possibility of an abandoned campfire or any other spark from starting a wildfire that could quickly spread in bone-dry vegetation and be pushed by hot, windy weather.
It’s the first full closure of a national forest in Colorado since 2002 — another very dry year — and will remain in place until sufficient precipitation eases the fire danger.
The move comes as the residents of over 2,000 homes have been forced to evacuate because of a fire that started June 1 in the forest and has spread to about 35 square miles (91 square kilometers).
Over 2,800 square miles (7,252 square kilometers) of public land in southwestern Colorado will be closed to campers, hikers and bikers because of the fire danger.
Officials plan to bar most entry to the San Juan National Forest starting Tuesday to prevent the possibility of an abandoned campfire or another spark starting another catastrophic wildfire in exceptional drought conditions. Roads through the forest will remain open.
Residents of over 2,000 homes have been ordered to evacuate because of a fire that started in the forest north of Durango, which doubled in size to about 25 square miles (67 square kilometers) over the weekend.
The closure will remain in place until enough moisture falls to improve conditions.
Last month, some forest land in Arizona was closed because of the fire danger.