Wildfire closes Highway 550 north of Durango
Pre-evacuations ordered in area east of highway
FARMINGTON — The Colorado Department of Transportation closed U.S. Highway 550 about 10 miles north of Durango this afternoon as authorities battle a blaze dubbed the 416 Fire that had grown to an estimated 863 acres as of 4:35 p.m.
Authorities said the highway will likely remain closed through Saturday.
At noon, the fire was said to be just 100 acres and growing rapidly toward the northwest, but by 3 p.m. it had doubled in size as winds shifted.
At 3:30 p.m. the fire prompted the evacuation of the Glacier Club/Tamarron area.
An evacuation center opened at Escalante Middle School, located at 141 Baker Lane in Durango.
Local and U.S. Forest Service resources are fighting the fire with ground crews and aircraft.
The highway closure was in place from mile points 34-48, according to CDOT. Travelers were being diverted onto La Plata County Road 250.
At least 500 homes were evacuated in a handful of neighborhoods along U.S. Highway 550, which has been closed in the area, according to The Associated Press.
At least eight structures are threatened by the blaze.
Meanwhile, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad canceled Saturday rides as a result of the severe fire danger.
"Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad trains are in Silverton now because of #416Fire," La Plata County Government reported at 3:14 p.m. via Facebook. "Passengers will be transported back to Durango via bus."
The fire was reported at about 10 a.m. today on the west side of U.S. 550, about 10 miles north of Durango.
“Area residents and travelers should remain alert to emergency announcements,” CDOT maintenance superintendent Greg Stacy said. “The current weather conditions and increasing high winds will certainly affect the fire's behavior and path.”
La Plata County's official Facebook page and emergency reponders warned owners of drones to keep them on the ground.
"Drones in the area above the #416FIre are disrupting air support. GET YOUR DRONES OUT OF THE SKY, PEOPLE!," the county's post shortly after 1:30 p.m. read.
That Facebook page, updated throughout the day with up-to-date information, also noted that fire evacuees had the option of checking in at the La Plata County Fairgrounds.