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Crews battling U.S. wildfires face hot, dry conditions before wet weather

Reuters logo Reuters 6/15/2018 By Keith Coffman

An aircraft makes a fire retardant drop on a wildfire in the mountains and forests near Durango, Colo © Jerry Day An aircraft makes a fire retardant drop on a wildfire in the mountains and forests near Durango, Colo Firefighters battling several unrelenting wildfires in the U.S. southwest will face windy and dry conditions on Friday before possibly getting a reprieve over the weekend when widespread showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast.

Red flag warnings are in effect for southern Nevada, southern Utah and western Colorado, where winds gusts could reach 45 miles (72 km) an hour and humidity could reach around 10 percent on Friday, the National Weather Service said.

"Moisture will increase substantially Friday night into Saturday as the remnants of Hurricane Bud track across the region, causing widespread showers and thunderstorms with heavy rain possible," the service said.

Although the wet weather could help in the efforts to battle two dozen wildfires that are currently burning in the southwest United States, it could also cause flash floods, the National Weather Service added.

The largest and most threatening blaze that firefighting crews are battling is the 416 Fire, which has scorched 32,000 acres (13,000 hectares) of drought-parched grass, brush and timber at the edge of the San Juan National Forest near the southwestern Colorado town of Durango.

Fire officials said on Thursday that crews had contained 18 percent of that blaze.

Officials lifted evacuation orders for some 375 residences and 19 businesses in the area while nearly 1,000 residences and businesses remained under evacuation orders, La Plata County officials said.

The 416 Fire and a separate blaze burning nearby, the Burro Fire, prompted state parks officials to close several wildlife areas to the public. The U.S. Forest Service has closed all 1.8 million acres of the San Juan National Forest to visitors.

About 60 miles west of Denver, evacuations for 1,400 homes were lifted on Thursday near the 81-acre Buffalo Fire as crews gained 45 percent containment around the blaze, fire officials said and local media reported.

No people have been injured or structures lost in the Colorado fires while nine homes were destroyed in a small wildfire in Utah.

In southern Wyoming near the Colorado border, the Badger Creek Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest has grown to more than 11,100 acres, according to the Inciweb online U.S. fire information service.

The Wyoming fire containment was listed as zero percent by fire officials. About 400 homes in Albany County have been ordered to evacuate.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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