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People flee hundreds of homes threatened by Colorado blaze

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DURANGO, Colo. (AP) — A wildfire in southwestern Colorado forced hundreds of evacuations and was expected to reach homes by Friday, authorities said.

The week-old blaze has blackened nearly 8 square miles (20.7 square kilometers) about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Durango and is encroaching on the town of Hermosa, where residents of nearly 500 homes were told to leave Thursday.

“That’s pretty much where we’re putting everyone, most of the crews,” Vickie Russo, a spokeswoman for the team managing the blaze, told The Durango Herald . “The fire is just getting too close for comfort to those structures and the residences.”

In total, more than 1,000 homes have been evacuated, and residents of more than 1,500 homes are on notice to be ready to leave if needed. No buildings have burned so far.

“It is better to give people a window for evacuations instead of, ‘You need to leave right now because the fire is in your backyard,'” Russo said.

The fire didn’t have much control over the flames, and firefighters have had to deal with hot and dry weather, gusty winds and some inaccessible terrain. It comes as a severe drought is gripping the American Southwest, especially the area where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet.

“We’re still in those severe fire conditions right now and that’s what we’re up against. Conditions are not in our favor,” Russo said.

Firefighters plan to use prepositioned sprinkler systems, fire hoses, fire engines and aircraft to protect the homes. They also have scouted out places to build fire lines to limit the fire’s growth.

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