Winds, high temperatures forecast as large wildfires burn in western U.S.

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(Reuters) – Prime conditions for wildfires are forecast for Wednesday in the western United States, where firefighters are battling to gain control over several large blazes that have forced the evacuation of more than 4,400 homes.

Wind gusts up to 25 miles (40 km) per hour, temperatures in the mid 80s Fahrenheit (around 30 Celsius) and humidity of less than 15 percent are expected, the U.S. Forest Service said.

The largest and most threatening blaze, the 416 Fire, has scorched more than 23,000 acres (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.

Fire crews managed to extend containment lines to 15 percent of the fire’s perimeter on Tuesday.

Some 2,150 homes there remained under evacuation orders and residents of another 500 homes were advised they might have to flee at short notice, La Plata County officials said.

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

Across the state about 60 miles (95 km) west of Denver, a newer blaze called the Buffalo Mountain Fire prompted the evacuation of 1,380 homes after blackening 100 acres, officials in Summit County said.

Firefighters were hoping for some relief from a promising shift in weather patterns forecast for Friday, some of it associated with Hurricane Bud.

Meanwhile, at least seven major wildfires were raging in parts of Colorado, marking the biggest concentration of roughly 30 blazes burning across nine Western states.

In southern Wyoming near the Colorado border, the Badger Creek Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest has grown to 5,200 acres, as evacuation orders were expanded to nearly 400 homes in Albany County, according to the Inciweb online U.S. fire information service.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; editing by John Stonestreet

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