Fires in Colorado, New Mexico and California have forced evacuations amid dry conditions and severe drought, and one blaze in California claimed three lives.
Officials said a woman and her two small children were found dead in a camping trailer burned by a wildfire that grew east of Monterey, California, according to the Associated Press. The trailer was located in a rural part of San Benito County, the report added.
Authorities did not say how the victims died Monday night, and their identities have not yet been released.
The cause of the fire, which has burned 64 acres and is 85 percent contained, remains under investigation.
416 Fire, Colorado
Friday hundreds of La Plata County, Colorado, residents were forced to flee as a quickly spreading wildfire continued to burn in the town of Hermosa, the Associated Press reports. More than 300 residences have been placed under the evacuation order. An additional 500 homes were told to evacuate on Thursday.
The blaze, dubbed the 416 Fire, was spotted north of Durango on June 1 and was being fueled by shifting winds onto the San Juan National Forest. Roughly 11 square miles have been scorched and the fire is 10 percent contained as of Friday.
In addition to the more than 1,000 homes evacuated, another 1,500 homes were told to be ready to leave on a moment’s notice.
Several witnesses have indicated that the inferno was sparked by someone near the train tracks, but no official cause has been released, according to the Durango Herald.
Ute Park Fire, New Mexico
Residents have been ordered to evacuate an area of northern New Mexico as an aggressive wildfire burned more than 57 square miles of land.
The so-called Ute Park Fire destroyed 14 unoccupied structures at the Boy Scouts’ Philmont Ranch overnight as it burned near Highway 64 in Ute Park. More than 200 buildings in Ute Park are threatened by the fire, according to KOAT.com.
However, there was some good news Monday: with the fire threat in steady decline, hundreds of residents in and around the town of Cimarron were cleared to return to their homes, officials said. Precipitation helped firefighters battle the blaze Sunday, and it is now 30 percent contained, according to InciWeb.
Several roads in the area were closed as the fire jumped over highways Friday and into the weekend.
Officials also said the fire danger forced the closure of Sante Fe National Park Friday morning, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. It will remain closed until conditions improve, the report added.
“Under current conditions, one abandoned campfire could cause a catastrophic wildfire, and we are not willing to take that chance with the natural and cultural resources under our protection and care,” National Forest Supervisor James Melonas said in a statement to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Northern New Mexico has been in a prolonged period of extreme drought. Areas in and around Ute Park are currently in exceptional drought – the worst category – according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.