Storms to create erratic conditions on 416 Fire

Tuesday, July 3, 2018 9:33 PM
Smoke-filled skies made for stark landscapes Monday around the 416 Fire. The blaze is expected to show steady growth over the next week, despite scattered storms that will raise humidity levels.

Fire officials expect steady growth of the 416 Fire over the next week, with scattered storms, dry lightning and wind gusts that could reach 50 mph.

Fire managers will monitor isolated thunderstorms expected during the next few days over the San Juan Mountains, but they don’t expect a lot of precipitation over the burn area. Though the storms are not likely to be widespread, they do carry the risk of dry lightning.

Collapsing thunderstorms could create erratic outflow winds with gusts up to 50 mph throughout the weekend, said incident meteorologist Gerry Claycomb.

“Thursday is the best chance for those wind gusts to happen,” Claycomb said.

However, the storms could bring moisture to the burn area. Claycomb predicts there is a 50 percent chance of rain Friday afternoon, which could result in anywhere from 0.1 to 0.25 inches of moisture. Though the rain won’t stifle the flames, the moisture will increase the relative humidity and will make it harder for fuels to burn.

“It will help slow the rate of fire spread,” spokeswoman Brandalyn Vonk said.

A few days after fire crews completed a successful burnout along the southwestern perimeter of the fire, officials will shift their focus to the northeastern area of the fire where the fire is slowly advancing toward Purgatory Resort. Fire officials, however, maintain the resort won’t be impacted by the fire.

“We’re moving equipment up into the Purgatory area to see what we currently have in place in preparation for if, and when, that fire moves closer,” Vonk said.

Purgatory has reopened summer activities. Fire officials said visitors should check location conditions when planning trips and activities to areas around the fire.

The fire grew 1,710 acres on Monday, with most of the growth occurring on the west side. The successful burnout operation on the southern perimeter has allowed firefighters to remove hoses, pumps and portable tanks from the area. Crews will continue to monitor the fire line they established.

La Plata County rescinded all pre-evacuation notices Monday. Several helicopters have been released from the 416 Fire to fight other higher-priority fires in the region, including the Spring Fire, which is burning 5 miles east of Fort Garland and was reported Tuesday morning at nearly 80,000 acres.

“We are able to make some of our resources available to other fires that are seeing a more serious need than we are,” Vonk said.

Humidity is predicted to increase throughout the week, resulting in cooler temperatures and decreased fire behavior, which should result in less smoke emissions. Smoke is expected to impact several mountain communities, including Silverton and Telluride. Overnight, smoke is expected to follow the Los Pinos River drainage and reach communities such as Bayfield and Ignacio after midnight.

Durango and Hermosa will continue to experience unhealthy levels of smoke that should lift in the afternoon. Live air-quality monitors can be viewed by visiting

La Plata County Road 124 from the junction of County Road 124A is closed, restricting access to Kennebec Pass trailhead. Trails and roads that connect to the closure area are being patrolled by law enforcement agencies.

A total of 420 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is 37 percent contained. The cost of firefighting operations is more than $27 million and the cause is under investigation. The Burro Fire, which is less than 2 miles from the 416 Fire, is currently at 4,437 acres and is 40 percent contained.