Fire officials battling the 416 Fire north of Durango have issued a containment date, or a date they believe a line will be built all the way around the fire, for July 31.
"Under current conditions, one abandoned campfire or spark 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, or with human life and property", the USDA said.
The San Juan National Forest makes up some 1.8 million acres across nine counties. The area in and around the forest southwest of Santa Fe has seen a string of fires since April.
The closure started Tuesday for the over 2,800 square miles (7,252 square kilometers) forest.
However, firefighters were counting on some relief from a promising shift in weather patterns forecast for Friday, some of it associated with Hurricane Bud. They don't expect residents to be out of their homes that long, but they also weren't able to give an estimate on when people might be able to return home.
"It's a huge step".
The fire prompted officials to close San Juan National Forest. "It's a big inconvenience and a big economic hit to the area".
A historic scenic railroad popular with tourists who come to area for hiking, camping and biking in the summer has stopped running because of the fire.
In New Mexico, the Santa Fe National Forest, along with portions of three national park sites, closed June 1 because of the fire danger.
The closure will remain in effect "until the forest receives sufficient moisture to improve conditions", according to a statement. Packard said the resort is also giving out a list of activities for visitors, which include using the resort's own walking trails and soaking in their pools. "There's a lot of structures and a lot of people we're trying to move", he said.
Anyone caught violating the closure, SJNF said, could be punished with an individual fine of up to $5,000 or $10,000 for an organization, a six-month prison sentence, or both.
Fire crews say this is a rapid start to the fire season and it's expected to intensify. A total of 1,029 firefighters are tackling the 416 wildfire, which is now 15% contained, according to La Plata County officials.
Fire officials have been expecting a busy wildfire season after a dry winter, possibly the worst since 2012 and 2013, when the Black Forest Fire in El Paso County destroyed almost 500 homes, the most in state history. By Thursday, the fire was 95 percent contained.