Hotshot crews deploy as 416 Fire near Durango, Colorado, stays put — for now
FARMINGTON – The 416 Fire near Durango, Colorado, reached 30 percent containment today as temperatures rose and humidity dropped.
Firefighters don’t expect the fire to grow above the current 34,161 acres today, but say there’s a potential for things to pick up later this week.
“Much of the fire is now in a state of smoldering and creeping, and active flames have been infrequent,” the 416 Fire team reported in Monday morning’s roundup. “Today, however, starts a weather trend that will quickly dry out fuels and re-elevate fire potential as the week goes on.”
The fire team echoed a statement made Sunday at a community meeting in Durango: the blaze that has burned more than 50 square miles is down, but it isn’t over.
“While the threat to people and values has been significantly reduced, it is important to remember that the fire is not yet “out,” they noted. “The San Juan Forest is still in an exceptional drought, with an overall deficit of approximately 5” of rain. The fire will not likely be fully cold until the arrival of monsoons.”
Thunderstorms are possible Thursday.
Rain a mixed blessing
The rains significantly slowed the 416 and Burro fires, but they also made getting into some areas dangerous or impossible,
“Weather and conditions did not allow eight out of the nine hotshot crews to get to the Falls Creek ridge yesterday,” the team reported Monday. “Today, two hotshot crews will be flown onto the ridge where they will construct direct line at the south edge of the fire, wrapping around to the northwest, and two more crews will hike in to that area to also construct direct line.”
More crews were to deploy as road conditions improve and they could hike in to work on a fire line off Junction Creek Road. By this afternoon the fire team reported, "All nine hotshot crews have arrived on the ridge and are constructing direct and indirect fireline. There have been no significant changes in fire behavior."
“There will be nearly 200 firefighters working on the ridge,” the team's report noted. “While the risk of fire itself has decreased, these crews will still face considerably challenging conditions. A National Guard Blackhawk Helicopter with medivac capabilities stands by in case of medical emergencies.”
A Colorado non-profit group is monitoring creeks and offering the public online updates.
“We collected water samples over the weekend from the Animas River and Hermosa Creek,” the Mountain Studies Institute posted on its Facebook page. “Sunday afternoon, ash from the #416fire found its way into Hermosa Creek after weekend rains. Luckily the rains were gentle and steady and didn't seem to cause any flooding.”
The group said some ash appeared “in the Animas around Trimble Lane, but hadn't quite made it Rotary Park.”
Updates will be posted at www.mountainstudies.org/416fire.
Forest remains closed
The U.S Forest Service said today that the welcome rains won’t change the decision to close the San Juan National Forest until drought conditions improve.
“Over the weekend, the San Juan National Forest received 0.5 to 1.5 inches of rain,” the agency stated. “The weekend rain did not suppress the active wildfires or the drought, but it did provide temporary relief.”
Warm, dry weather in the forecast this week will offset any effects of the weekend rains, they said.
“There is a danger for dry lightning and gusty winds from afternoon thunderstorms; dry lightning historically ignites wildfires, because it occurs without any significant precipitation,” they said.