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Wildfires are igniting across the Mountain West and the weather is not helping

At least six wildfires are burning in the state of Colorado this week, bolstered by hot, dry winds and no rain in the forecast. The conditions are so ripe for fires this week, officials are pre-emptively shutting down parks and forests.

The 416 fire, which is located just north of Durango, Colorado, has forced residents of around 2,000 homes to evacuate since it started June 1. The fire doubled in size over the weekend and as of Monday night, June 11, had burned more than 23,000 acres. It's only 15 percent contained, according to the National Forest Service.

Some rain is expected late Thursday into Friday. If that materializes, it could provide favorable enough conditions for firefighters to make more progress on containment.

The fire danger is so bad in the Southwest, officials are pre-emptively shutting down public parks and forests to prevent the start of new fires, which are rare and only done as a last resort, the AP reports.

Wildfires are almost always caused by humans, according to a recent study. Since 1992, 84 percent of all fires were ignited by human action - intentional or otherwise.From 1992 to 2012, "the human-caused fire season was three times longer than the lightning-caused fire season and added an average of 40,000 wildfires per year across the United States," researchers wrote in 2017. On top of that, human-caused fires usually affect regions that are close to population centers. Natural wildfires tend to occur in sparsely-populated areas of the Mountain West, the study showed.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the 416 fire.

 

Story by Angela Fritz. Fritz is an atmospheric scientist and The Washington Post's deputy weather editor. Before joining The Post, Fritz worked as a meteorologist at CNN in Atlanta and Weather Underground in San Francisco. She has a BS in meteorology and an MS in earth and atmospheric science.

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