Wildfire closes interstate on Colorado-New Mexico border

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 14, 2011 2:43 AM
Wildfire closes interstate on Colorado-New Mexico border

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A wind-driven wildfire on the New Mexico-Colorado border has forced the closure of a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 25 across the state line, fire officials said on Monday.

The Track Fire erupted over the weekend one mile north of Raton, New Mexico and has charred 2,100 acres on both sides of the interstate, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center.

Numerous structures were said to be threatened.

Wafting smoke from the blaze has drifted into Colorado, prompting the closure of 11 miles of the north-south interstate on the Colorado side, said Mindy Crane, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

About 19 miles of the highway were closed on the New Mexico side on Sunday.

Crane said how long the highway remains closed depends on the fire's behavior.

Steve Segin, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, said the blaze is "very active" and hot, dry winds are pushing the flames north.

"We expect it to cross into Colorado today," Segin said.

Another wildfire is burning through tinder-dry grasses and ponderosa pine trees on the San Isabel National Forest near Westcliffe, Colorado, Segin said.

High winds and the rugged terrain in the area are hampering firefighting efforts on that blaze, which has blackened 1,000 acres so far, he said.

Forty homes in the line of the fire are under mandatory evacuation orders, and another 200 are threatened. A youth church camp was evacuated Sunday as a precaution.

Two wildfires that charred 60,000 acres on the U.S. Army's Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, near Fort Carson, Colorado late last week are near full containment, Segin said.

But low humidity values, gusty winds hot temperatures forecast for this week in southern Colorado is producing "extreme fire danger," Segin said.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jerry Norton)