Eyewitness images reveal devastation of Colorado wildfires (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)
The forest, which covers more than 1.8 million acres in western Colorado, announced Tuesday the Stage 3 closure is "to protect natural resources and public safety" because of the danger of the blaze known as the 416 Fire. Several small communities of permanent and seasonal residences were ordered evacuated, but no buildings were burned.
At least six wildfires are burning in the state of Colorado this week, bolstered by hot, dry winds and no rain in the forecast.
More than 800 firefighters battled the blaze, which was 10 percent contained, unchanged from Sunday.
The largest and most threatening blaze, a 12-day-old conflagration dubbed the 416 Fire, has scorched more than 9,460 hectares of drought-parched grass, brush and timber at the edge of the San Juan National Forest near the southwestern Colorado town of Durango.
"The Cibola is a high-use forest so this is not a decision that we made lightly", said Matt Rau, fire staff officer, in a statement.
The so-called Badger Creek Fire, burning in the Medicine Bow National Forest, was listed at 150 acres (60 hectares) with zero containment on Monday morning, but had expanded by late afternoon, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Aaron Voos said by telephone.
Voos said people who have been evacuated can not return to their properties to retrieve belongings, as officials need to know that the area is clear.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the rapid response from emergency crews has helped prevent a repeat of devastating wildfires in 2012 and 2013.
No homes have been destroyed in the fire. "Our state agencies are here to support you".
The smoke from the wildfire has affected air quality, Graham said. "As we have proved time and time again, Coloradans are resilient", he said.
The blaze came within a couple hundred yards of one pricey subdivision Tuesday, but firefighting coupled with "fuel breaks" constructed around the neighborhoods several years ago as part of the county's fire mitigation efforts were able to keep the flames from reaching homes, the Summit Daily reported.
The fire began Tuesday about 2 miles west of Silverthorne, a town with about 4,700 residents and about 65 miles west of Denver.
Similarly, the spokesperson speculated that perhaps some insulation blew off a home and burned in the sun.
There also is an exception in the Sandia district for Foothills Trail No. 365, the Sandia Peak Tram and the Sandia Ranger District Administrative site, which includes the Tijeras Pueblo, trail, programs and facilities, forest officials said in a news release.
A fire in California that burned nearly 200 acres has been contained, officials said.
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