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U.S. West sees red flag warnings and watches

Summer wildfire season affecting at least 6 states

June 20, 2013

Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches for enhanced wildfire danger have been issued by the National Weather Service for areas in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming.

In Colorado, visitors to Waterton Canyon are being escorted out Thursday adter Denver Water closed the area as a safety precaution because of the Lime Gulch fire. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office announced the closure in a tweet Thursday morning.

The Lime Gulch fire, which was initially reported as the Chair Rock fire, was estimated at 500-acres around 6:45 p.m. Wednesday by the U.S. Forest Service. The fire was possibly triggered by lightning, and has threatened no structures in Pike National Forest.

A fire near Denver was burning in steep, heavily forested mountain terrain, south of where last year’s Lower North Fork Fire damaged and destroyed 23 home and killed three people. The fire was triggered by a prescribed burn that escaped containment lines.

In southwestern Colorado, two backcountry fires started by lightning last week and fueled by large swaths of beetle-killed trees grew stronger. The West Fork Fire, nearly tripled in size to nearly 19 square miles, while the 700-acre Windy Pass Fire grew to threaten buildings near the Wolf Creek Ski Area. Firefighters have largely let the fires burn but were working to keep them away from the ski resort, fire spokeswoman Anne Jeffery said Thursday.

In Southern Colorado, a 300-acre fire in Huerfano County forced at least 175 people to stay at a Red Cross shelter at a high school.

In Colorado’s northwest corner, an 850-acre blaze in Rio Blanco County forced Encana Corp. to shut down oil and gas facilities, the Bureau of Land Management said.

In Arizona, firefighters received little help from the weather Thursday as they battled a wildfire in Prescott Nation Forest that blackened nearly 12 square miles. The blaze erupted Tuesday and led to the evacuation of 500 homes. More than 600 firefighters are involved in fighting the 7,200-acre wildfire.

Officials say the Dolce fire, about 100 miles north of Phoenix, has involved three air tankers, four helicopters, 16 crews and 27 engines, USA Today reported.

Winds of 18 to 20 mph have been blowing the flames away from Prescott, which is eight miles south of the fire, said Commander Tony Sciacca.

A blaze in southern New Mexico’s Gila National Forest has grown to 57 square miles.

A fire near Yosemite National Park, sparked by a campfire, led to the evacuation of about 800 homes at its peak. The San Bernardino National Forest has a nearly 6-square mile fire that is 83 percent contained.

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