Colorado wildfire prompts air quality alert

Aaron Brown
June 13, 2018

Almost 700 more homes were evacuated Sunday morning as the 416 Fire burning north of Durango almost doubled in size overnight, La Plata County officials said in their latest update as firefighters continue to attack the blaze in southwest Colorado.

The fire grew overnight on the west and northwest sides, an area that is National Forest land and not anywhere near homes. Fire managers couldn't immediately say how many homes were included. "We have a lot to lose here, we don't want to lose it". Stage 3 restrictions would result in a closure of the San Juan National Forest, said Kara Chadwick, San Juan National Forest supervisor.

Until the rain starts falling on these flames, there's a good chance the fire, and evacuations, will continue to grow. In at least one area, the fire has "come up to some people's backyards", Bawden told the Post, but none have been destroyed.

On Sunday evening, fire officials said the fire was acting as predicted and burning actively and intensely with wind gusts of up to 35 to 40 miles per hour on ridges.

"This indicates that there is a high potential for extreme fire behavior, intensity and growth", the new release read.

The 416 Fire burns in the Hermosa Creek drainage area on Sunday, June 11. The department expects winds to carry the smoke northeastward throughout the day Monday. A second evacuation check-in site is open from 9 4 p.m. daily at the Silverton Town Hall, 1360 Greene Street in Silverton. The center will have representatives from local and regional resources to assist those affected by the fire.

More than 800 crew members are fighting the fire, which is 10 percent contained. No structures had been lost as of Friday morning. Protecting private property and infrastructure remains a priority for crews.

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Monday is expected to be dry again, but wind speeds should decrease.

The fire is about a quarter of a mile from the nearest house, and fire officials said structure protection is in place.

There were no new burn-area updates early on Monday for the so-called 416 Fire in southwest Colorado but, according to the last update, it had burned almost 17,000 acres (6,880 hectares) by Sunday evening, an area larger than Manhattan.

The Haines Index, used by firefighters to assess the stability and dryness of air over fires, is at its maximum level of six, officials said. Durango was operating an evacuation center and a shelter and taking in livestock at the La Plata County Fairgrounds.

The Durango Herald reported more than 1,600 other homes have already been evacuated. The emergency call center at (970) 385-8700 can help coordinate pick-up of livestock. Small animals are being accepted at the La Plata County Humane Society, 1111 South Camino del Rio, Durango (970) 259-2847.

The fire, which started on June 1, is still 10 percent contained.

The wildfire comes amid a severe drought in the Four Corners area where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet. Fire officials said in the Saturday update that Highway 550 was closed from mile marker 32 to 47 and pilot cars were escorting traffic through there. More information about evacuations is available at the La Plata County Government Facebook page.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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