New concern in 416 Fire zone: Flash flood watch on as storms approach

Farmington Daily Times
This map illustrating potential flood zones in the 416 Fire zone was released Friday by La Plata County, Colo., officials.

FARMINGTON — Weekend storms that are expected to help douse some of the stubborn 416 Fire near Durango, Colorado, bring with them the possibility of flash floods in the fire zone.

The 416 fire area was put under a flash flood watch today by the National Weather Service in effect from this afternoon through this evening.

“Meteorologists are forecasting heavy rainfall over the burn area, which may lead to flash flooding and debris flows,” the fire team said. “Residents near this wildfire and along the Highway 550 corridor near Hermosa should prepare for potential flooding impacts. … The probability of rain increases through the weekend, with amounts ranging from .10 to .25 inches expected daily.”

The team referred questions about potential flash flood dangers to La Plata County officials at 970-385-8700.

Those officials today released a map of potential danger areas and urged residents to check in about current conditions when the rains start to fall — this week and into the future.

MORE:416 Fire update: Price of fighting blaze nears $29 million

“These events could be intensified in areas in and around the 416 Fire burn area, where soils may be unable to absorb water at normal rates,” the county warns on its Facebook page. “These conditions can lead to more rapid runoff of water and materials during the storms forecast this week and those over the coming months and years.”

A community meeting to discuss the fire team’s progress and potential flood and debris flow issues will happen at Miller Middle School, 2608 Junction St. in Durango, at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Fire manager NIMO Operations Section Chief Alex Robertson said areas of specific concern now are the Falls Creek, Tripp Creek and Durango Regency Mobile Home Park areas.

He said the north end of the fire near Purgatory Mountain Resort saw heavy rain Thursday, but not much fell on the fire’s southern flank.

Clearing the air

The fire has burned 54,129 acres and remains 45 percent contained as it keeps 383 personnel busy. The cost so far is $29.5 million.

The rains will be good news to local communities suffering from smoke pollution.

“As the amount of rain increases, it will penetrate the canopy, wetting fuels and making them less available to burn,” the team’s morning report said today. “Smoke impacts to surrounding communities should diminish rapidly as fuels become saturated.”

Crews are redeploying or removing equipment as needed, and some areas are still off-limits to the public.

MORE:Weather expected to turn in favor of firefighters this weekend

“Yesterday the fire was pretty quiet. We’re really in a recovery mode,” fire manager Robertson said today.

La Plata County Road 124 from the junction of County Road 124A is still closed, and trails and roads that connect to the San Juan National Forest closure order area are being patrolled by law enforcement agencies, the fire team warned.

“Although a restricted portion of Purgatory Ski Resort is opened, area closures and a fire ban remain in effect to ensure both public and firefighter safety,” they said.

Road information is available at The fire team’s Information Center can be reached at 970-403-5326 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.