Update: 416 Fire near Durango intensifies as weather stays dry

Westerly winds drove smoke from the 416 Fire to Hermosa and Honeyville on Sunday.

The Daily Times staff
Smoke from intensified fire activity in the Clear Creek Area was documented by the 416 Fire crew around 3:15 p.m. June 24, 2018, near Durango, Colorado.

Note: This article was updated at 1 p.m and again at 11:24 p.m. Monday to include the latest information on the fire's growth.

FARMINGTON — New infrared maps show the 416 Fire near Durango, Colorado, grew by almost 600 acres overnight, more than originally estimated. 

"The 416 grew 584 acres yesterday, new acreage is 34,962. Acreage is from the Infrared Mapping done last night," the 416 Fire team announced today.

 "Yesterday, winds encouraged fire growth as they gusted to 40 mph in some areas," the team said this morning. "Winds will diminish slightly today, coming from the west-northwest at 6-10 mph with gusts to 20 mph. This slight decrease in winds is enough to keep the area out of Red Flag conditions today."

There were 459 firefighters at work under the National Incident Management Organization from Portland, Oregon by Monday evening. A report written at 8 p.m. Monday listed the fire as 36 percent contained, one percent less than on Sunday.

No quick fix

Fire managers called the 416 Fire "an evolving fire," one that won't be over this week, or next.

"Much patience is required during monitoring, operational planning, and tactical decisions in order to keep firefighters safe in terrain that is steep, rugged, and often inaccessible," managers said. "While complete suppression is the ultimate goal, it is not an immediately obtainable one."

Red areas show new areas of fire growth as the 416 Fire continues to spread in dry conditions near Durango, Colorado.

Last night, before the larger estimate was available, fire managers noted the difficult conditions in which they work.

“The environment continues to be primed for problematic fire behavior,” the fire team reported Sunday evening. “Weather is trending toward warmer and drier, causing fuels to be more susceptible to ignition."

Operations Section Chief Alex Robertson of the new fire management team, Portland National Incident Management Organization, said in a Monday morning briefing that on the western edge the fire is heading slowly through inaccessible wilderness.

"That fire growth is doing nothing but good for us right now," he said of the western advance in the fire's "Division H" zone.

Robertson said it is progressing toward a previously-clear-cut area and the road system, which is kind of place where firefighters can battle the flames. "That's where our folks are ready to take action when it gets there."

PREVIOUSLY:New 416 fire boss talks strategy; Purgatory plans reopening

Warmer weather in the forecast

Warm weather and low humidity contributed to the fire’s spread this weekend, and hotter temperatures are forecast for mid-week.

This map lists closed areas impacted by the 416 Fire and Burro Fire. The San Juan National Forest remains under Stage 2 fire restrictions, so campfires are banned in open areas.

Two separate smoke columns rose yesterday, “one from Clear Creek and one from Hope and Deer Creek areas,” the report said.

“As predicted, fire was active on the west side today,” the team said. “Fire behavior increased just south of Clear Creek. Activity also intensified on the northwest corner of the fire near North Hope Creek and Deer Creek. Fire spread west along the ridge on south facing aspects in these areas.” 

Fire managers say the fire’s intensity will increase in those locations. “These two areas will continue to produce smoke (Monday).

The western edge of the fire is inaccessible to crews due to dangerous terrain, but is monitored from the air.

The northern edge of the fire was calm Sunday, but crews are keeping an eye on the ridgelines in case the fire starts to spread in that direction.

Helicopters work on trouble spot

The southwest flank was attacked from the air Sunday.

“This morning, helicopters flew for approximately two hours, putting water and gel (water enhancer) onto the southwest perimeter near where the direct and indirect lines meet,” the team reported. “This successfully decreased heat and calmed the fire behavior in this location.”

PREVIOUSLY:People return to homes, businesses as 416 Fire slows

U.S. Highway 550 remains open with no restrictions. 

“Interior smoke will remain visible from U.S. 550, however, interior fire activity is generally not a threat,” the fire team said. “While firefighters will check on concerning hotspots or new areas of spread, many other benign smoldering areas will be allowed to safely burn themselves out in order to reduce risk of harm to firefighters. As a reminder, fire that is visible at night appears closer and more ominous than it actually is."

Fire managers reminded residents that "the fire is not out, and it will not be out until the arrival of significant moisture. Currently, however, the fire is behaving in a predictable way, allowing managers to observe and plan intentionally."

Areas around the 416 and Burro fires remain closed to the public.

For current information go to www.cotrip.org

La Plata County’s 416 Fire Interactive Map is at https://bit.ly/416fire.