Rain on way to help douse wildfires in New Mexico, Colorado


June 3 (Reuters) - Mother Nature is bringing good news to the firefighters battling wild blazes in the U.S. states of New Mexico and Colorado: rain, and lots of it.

Downpours are expected by early Sunday afternoon, said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

"It's good news for them," he said. "We're talking about an average of 1.4 inches of rain in New Mexico. We're even putting out a warning for some spots of flash flooding, because the ground is so hard, there'll be a lot of run-off. But this is nice, right when they need it."

In southwestern Colorado, where the wildfires are burning, Hurley predicts a "healthy dousing of a half-inch of rain."

Wildfires stoked by low humidity and high temperatures raged in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado into early Sunday, threatening nearly 1,900 homes and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents from remote communities, fire officials said.

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Wildfires rage in New Mexico, Colorado
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Wildfires rage in New Mexico, Colorado
Flames rise from the 416 Fire near Durango, Colorado, U.S. in this June 5, 2018 handout photo obtained by Reuters June 6, 2018. La Plata County/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
A helicopter drops water on the 416 Fire near Durango, Colorado, U.S. in this June 4, 2018 handout photo obtained by Reuters June 5, 2018. La Plata County/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
#416Fire update: Electra Lake south to Baker’s Bridge evacuated. North Electra Lake to Meadow View Drive, including… https://t.co/BlfThWAGjc
#416Fire 1,100 acres as of 7:30 p.m.; fire behavior calming. Evacuations are in effect for approximately 825 reside… https://t.co/DZrJgEFdHI
A large #wildfire ignited and spread rapidly in #NewMexico yesterday prompting evacuation orders. #GOESEast capture… https://t.co/2j659NwD7b
#461Fire at approximately 1,100 acres as of 7:30. Here’s final report for today: https://t.co/uiOtzZr1wK https://t.co/BxrMOo4BP8
Southern edge of #416Fire north of Hermosa https://t.co/T1rMOaLnS5
#416Fire as seen from Rockwood https://t.co/oiuntBDosd
A helicopter drops water on the 416 Fire near Durango, Colorado, U.S. in this June 4, 2018 handout photo obtained by Reuters June 5, 2018. La Plata County/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Smoke and flames rage on a mountain on Highway 149 along the Silver Thread Scenic Byway near Creede, Colorado June 24, 2013. A trio of wind driven wildfires roared across 76,000 acres of national forest in southwest Colorado as firefighters held the line against flames threatening the mountain town of South Fork. REUTERS/John McEvoy (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT DISASTER)
Smoke from the Papoose fire is seen from Highway 149 along the Silver Thread Scenic Byway near Creede, Colorado June 24, 2013. A trio of wind driven wildfires roared across 76,000 acres of national forest in southwest Colorado as firefighters held the line against flames threatening the mountain town of South Fork. REUTERS/John McEvoy (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT DISASTER)
A combination of photos show (clockwise from top L) the remains of a burned-out house, a view of the old foundation which has been removed and the hole filled in for a house, beginnings of a foundation for a house, and rebuilt homes and vacant lots on Courtney Drive in Colorado Springs July 29, 2012, November 15, 2012, February 21, 2013, and June 26, 2013. The Waldo Canyon fire on June 26, 2012 destroyed 346 homes. Pictures taken July 29, 2012, November 15, 2012, February 21, 2013, and June 26, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: ANNIVERSARY BUSINESS CONSTRUCTION DISASTER SOCIETY)
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The fires, about 250 miles (400 km) apart in the drought-parched Four Corners region of the southwestern United States, have consumed nearly 32,000 acres (12,000 hectares) between them, officials said.

The larger of the two, the so-called Ute Park Fire in Colfax County, New Mexico, was zero percent contained after scorching some 30,000 acres by early Sunday morning near Cimarron, a town of about 1,100 people northeast of Santa Fe, according to a bulletin on the New Mexico Fire Information website.

Ten fire crews, totaling 510 people, 32 fire engines, eight helicopters and eight bulldozers, were deployed, officials said.

About 300 structures were threatened in Cimarron, where officials issued a mandatory evacuation on Friday. The town lies just northeast of the Santa Fe National Forest, which was indefinitely closed to the public on Friday in a rare measure prompted by the heightened fire risk from prolonged drought.

About a dozen outbuildings went up in flames on an adjacent ranch, fire officials said.

The cause of the fire, which began on Thursday and has been burning through grassland and pine forest, is not known.

A second wildfire started on Friday about 10 miles north of Durango, Colorado, raging across nearly 2,000 acres and forcing the evacuation of about 1,500 people near the southern border of the San Juan National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service said.

Officials of La Plata County, Colorado, said they opened evacuation centers after ordering residents out of about 825 homes and issuing pre-evacuation notices for residents of another 760 homes.

The Forest Service said the intensity of the Colorado wildfire, known as the 416 Fire, had slightly diminished by Saturday morning and that firefighters were focused on protecting neighborhoods and infrastructure as they managed to carve containment lines around 10 percent of the blaze.

​​​​​​​RELATED: Colo. impacted by April wildfires

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Wildfires in Oklahoma
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Wildfires in Oklahoma
The remains of Larry and Arlinda Lynes home that was destroyed by the Rhea fire is pictured near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
Dead cattle that were killed by the Rhea fire are pictured near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
A firefighter works to control the Rhea fire near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Larry Lynes looks over what remains of his home that was destroyed by the Rhea fire near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
The Rhea fire burns into the night near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
A firefighter waits for the Rhea fire to approach near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
A firetruck that was destroyed by the Rhea fire is seen near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
Arlinda Lynes looks over what remains of her property that was destroyed by the Rhea fire near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
The Rhea fire burns through a grove of red cedar trees near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
A grove of trees destroyed by the Rhea Fire is seen near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
The Rhea fire burns through a grove of red cedar trees near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
A cow that got stuck in a barbed wire fence while trying to escape the Rhea fire is pictured near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
A firefighter works to control the Rhea fire near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Firefighters struggle to control the Rhea fire near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
Johnny Lynes sifts through the remains of his parents home that was destroyed by the Rhea fire near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
Arlinda and Larry Lynes stand in front of what remains of their home that was destroyed by the Rhea fire near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
Firefighters pass by the Rhea fire as it burns through a grove of red cedars near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
A CL-415 performs a water drop on the Rhea fire near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
A tanker truck waits to refill brush pumpers as the Rhea fire burns near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
The Rhea fire burns through a grove of red cedar trees near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
David Bailey (L) and Bobby Yoder remove tin roofing from the remains of Larry and Arlinda Lynes home that was destroyed by the Rhea fire near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
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For both fires, there is a risk of lightning strikes and gusty winds, but Hurley said the amount of rain brings more help than storm risks. (Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Peter Szekely in New York; Additional reporting and writing by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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