416 Fire: More than 1,000 battle blazes as Highway 550 temporarily reopens

The Daily Times staff
This aerial photo, taken Monday above the 171 road, looks northeast and shows the main fire moving south, part of the fire in Buck Creek drainage and, where the smoke is thinner, the planned burnout area.

FARMINGTON — The 416 Fire grew to 27,420 acres as fire crews worked to contain aggressive fire behavior in the northwestern section while conducting controlled burns in some areas to hamper the fire's advance.

No structures have been lost in the blaze, which started June 1 and is 15 percent contained.The Burro fire, which started on June 8, has charred 2,829 acres and is 0 percent contained.

La Plata County Government  announced that between 2 p.m.and 6 p.m. today "residents evacuated from Rockwood, Tamarron and Glacier Club subdivisions due to #416Fire may return home. In order to enter these areas, residents must show their RapidTag credentials."

"These subdivisions will remain under pre-evacuation orders, and residents will be subject to the limited opening hours of U.S. Highway 550, which will close Wednesday at 6 p.m.," the announcement noted. "The highway is scheduled to be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, with law enforcement escort."

The Colorado Department of Transportation had reopened U.S. Highway 550 from noon to 6 p.m. today in the 416 Fire area due to progress made by fire crews.

Public lands closed

The causes of both fires remain under investigation. There are 1,029 personnel on site, according to the release.

The San Juan National Forest entered Stage 3 closure on Tuesday, which prohibits public access to the forest, including campgrounds, day use areas, roads and trails, according to a notice posted on the San Juan National Forest website.

Restrictions placed by the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners have closed county trails, encampments, open space, and unimproved lands.

The City of Durango likewise closed all public open space today and banned smoking on all city owned land.

YOU NEED TO KNOW:416 Fire north of Durango impacts San Juan County air quality

Crews address 416 fire growth

The fire grew in the northwest section on Tuesday and the increase is expected to continue today as the fire encounters heavier fuels.

While some areas are seeing a lot of heat, the area around the Purgatory Resort is not seeing much activity, and is prepped with fire lines and areas ready for controlled burns should the fire approach.

"It looks like that area is pretty much holding its own," 416 Fire public information officer Janine Knight told The Farmignton Daily Times today.

Knight held out "a glimmer of hope" that the coming days could eventually bring storms to add moisture to the parched region.

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team's Wednesday morning release states the fire is moving toward Junction Creek Road and has established in the Falls Creek drainage.

The agency also reported the fire progressed south on a ridge west of High Meadow Ranch Road and crews kept pace on Tuesday with the fire by performing burnout operations.

Such operations will continue in the Falls Creek subdivision, to remove fuels and to establish burned area inside the line. In addition, aircraft and ground crews will be active.

There are eight helicopters, 55 engines, three dozers, 23 hand crews and four water tenders on the 416 Fire lines.

Burro Fire remains active

Fire crews continue to address the Burro Fire, which has burned 2,829 acres since starting June 8 in an area between Dolores and Rico.

Firefighters will construct direct and indirect fire lines using exist roads and fuel breaks along the south and southwest side of the fire above Bear Creek drainage, the release states.

Crews are locating values at risk along the Dolores River.

This map shows the locations of the 416 and Burro fires.

The fire is zero contained with its cause under investigation and there are 203 personnel responding, the release states.

Traffic restrictions on Highway 550

Traffic will be escorted on the highway, which has experienced closures due to the 416 Fire burning north of Durango, Colorado, according to a press release from the transportation department.

The department reminds the public there is no stopping, parking or standing outside of vehicles along the highway shoulder, due to emergency personnel and equipment traveling in the area.

In addition, the northern closure point for the highway will move from mile marker 64 at Molas Pass to mile marker 49.5, north of Purgatory.

The 416 Fire has scorched more than 27,000 acres and is 15 percent contained.

Some evacuees return home

Some residents in San Juan County, Colorado, were permitted to return home at 8 a.m. today as part of the evacuation order lifted for portions of the Highway 550 corridor.

Residents returning to the area will need to present Rapid Tag resident credentials to access homes, according to a Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team press release.

Residences in the county continue to be on pre-evacuation notice, the release states.

Additional re-entries will be evaluated in La Plata County as firefighters continue to make progress on the east side of the fire, the department states.