416 Fire: San Juan National Forest closes, Burro fire expands
FARMINGTON — The San Juan National Forest has implemented a Stage 3 fire closure today, effectively closing 1.8 million acres of the forest as the 416 Fire in Colorado continues to grow.
The 416 Fire, located north of Durango, Colorado, has burned 23,378 acres and is 15 percent contained. It started on June 1, and its cause is still under investigation, according to a Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team press release.
The San Juan National Forest closure order went into effect at 12:01 a.m., which means all public access into the forest including roads and trails were closed.
The closure will remain in effect until the forest receives sufficient moisture that is expected to help the conditions.
The La Plata County Board of County Commissioners has enacted Stage 3 fire restrictions, now in effect, closing county trails, encampments, open space, and unimproved lands.
While many La Plata County residents remained evacuated from their homes, some San Juan County, Colorado, residents got good news. Fire evacuation orders for residents of that county will lift Wednesday morning.
"Due to current and predicted fire behavior and progress made by firefighters working on the 416 Fire, the residents of San Juan County (Colorado) who have been evacuated ...will be allowed to return to their homes beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesday," La Plata County Government's Facebook page announced today. "Residents returning home will need to present the Rapid Tag resident credentials to be allowed back in."
U.S. Highway 550 in that area will reopen to the general public, with traffic escorted, from noon until 6 p.m. The northern closure point will move from Molas Pass at mile point 64 to just north of Purgatory at mile point 49.5.
"As firefighters continue to make progress on the east side of the fire, additional re-entries will be evaluated in La Plata County," the message stated. "Please contact the community hotline at (970)385-8700 if you have questions."
WATCH OUT FOR THIS:416 Fire impacts air quality in San Juan County
Burro Fire expands
West of the 416 fire, the Burro fire had charred 2,684 acres Tuesday morning.
Steep, rugged terrain and heavy, dead fuels were cited as the main drivers of the fire as it continues to spread slowly in a north-east direction.
Officials noted that residents will continue seeing smoldering and smoke in burned areas inside the perimeter of the fire.
Fire crews are working to keep the fire from moving west and south.
Crews are assessing areas with structures and building a dozer line on the south side of the fire.
Crews plan operation
Residents are advised there is a significant burnout operation planned in the upcoming days for the 416 Fire in the area bordered by Falls Creek Road on the east and Junction Creek Road on the west.
It will generate smoke and flames which can be seen in Durango and is being performed to remove fuel between the planned containment areas and the fire's edge.
Crews farther north in the fire team's Division X are working to bring the line north from FR 578.
"The area around Purgatory Resort is prepped for protection, if needed, and lines continue to be improved," the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team's Tuesday morning roundup report noted.
U.S. Highway 550 remains closed today due to the fire between mile marker 32 to 64. The closure starts from Cometti Lane in Hermosa and extends to the summit of Molas Pass, according to a Colorado Department of transportation press release.
CDOT requests the public stay away from the south closure in Hermosa and avoid parking, stopping and standing outside of vehicles on the side of the highway.
Kent Baxstrom, CDOT Maintenance Supervisor, said in a press release people are creating a hazard for emergency and fire equipment and personnel by parking their vehicles on the side of the highway and exiting their vehicles to look at the fire.
Hot and Dry Conditions
The 917 firefighters working on the 416 and Burro fires were dealing with hot and dry conditions.
The temperatures today were projected to be between 76 and 86 degrees with gusts of wind hitting up to 25 mph and humidity as low as six percent.
People taking part in outdoor recreation are advised to reduce or stop activities during times when the areas in the Four Corners region are smoky, according to a smoke outlook issued for the fires.
The United States Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program issued the report for today and Wednesday.
Dense smoke is expected to settle during the night into communities including Aztec and areas in Colorado including Bondad, Bayfield, Hermosa and Durango.
The smoke is expected to start clearing in the early afternoon hours.
Colorado areas including Lake City and Silverton are projected to receive the smoke in this afternoon and Wednesday afternoon.
The air quality index for Aztec is listed as moderate for today and unhealthy for sensitive groups on Wednesday, according to the report.
Members of the general public are not likely to be impacted by the air quality Wednesday but residents with lung disease, children and older adults are at a greater risk for ozone exposure and the presence of particles in the air.
MORE 416 FIRE COVERAGE:
Crews protect Purgatory Resort area as 416 Fire continues to grow
416 Fire doubles in size, Purgatory/Durango Mountain Resort area homes evacuated
More evacuations ordered as 416 Fire continues to grow