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W. Colorado: Western Slope blazes continue to burn

SHARE W. Colorado: Western Slope blazes continue to burn

CRAIG, Colo. (AP) — Western Colorado was under a "red flag" warning Thursday, meaning fire danger remained high as three fires continued burning in tinder-dry conditions.

Nearly 16,000 acres have been scorched by the fires in Western Colorado.

About 9,500 acres have burned in and around the Dinosaur National Monument near the Green River, about five miles from the Utah border and 110 miles north of Grand Junction.

Another fire was burning on 1,100 acres near Rangely, about 55 miles northwest of Grand Junction, and a third was burning on 4,100 acres near the town of Gateway, about 35 miles southwest of Grand Junction.

All three fires are in remote areas and the only known home threatened was a vacation cabin in the northeast corner of the Rangely fire. It was being protected by slurry drops Wednesday, Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team spokesman Dennis Seville said.

Winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour caused the fires to spread Wednesday. Fire crews at the Dinosaur fire had to be pulled off the north side of the fire after it made strong runs down steep terrain.

The Gateway fire made a mile-and-a-half run at one point, said spokesman Justin Dombrowski.

Communication problems also slowed the fight. Some crews fighting the Dinosaur fire were removed after their radios failed in the hilly terrain. Cell phones do not work in the area and new radio repeaters were expected to be in place by Thursday to solve the problem, Seville said.

"The terrain out there is extremely steep and canyon-like. We're actually having to ferry some of the crew to their destination by helicopter," said Lynn Barclay, a spokeswoman with the Craig Interagency Dispatch center.

A few families near the Rangely fire were evacuated Wednesday just in case the fire reached nearby, above-ground oil pipes and a pump station.

Meanwhile the Canyon of Lodore campground, separated from the Dinosaur fire by the Green River, has reopened, Seville said.

Dry drought-like conditions were expected to continue Thursday in the corner of Colorado that borders Wyoming and Utah.

The Dinosaur fire is now about 30 percent contained and full containment is not expected until at least Sunday, Seville said.

The wildfires came less than a month after two blazes burned about 21,000 acres on the more densely populated eastern side of the Continental Divide, destroying dozens of homes and other structure.