Severe weather behavior caused the 416 Fire to double in size Saturday. The fire is now 16,766 acres, and remains at 10 percent containment, according to fire officials.
An evacuation order was issued to 675 residences this morning to Purgatory/Durango Mountain Resort, Lake Purgatory, Silver Pick Lodge, Cascade Village, Mill Creek and all residences on both sides of U.S. Highway 550 between mile markers 46.5 to 53.1. Residents were given notifications at 9:45 a.m.
Highway 550 was open for an hour this morning before it was shut down to aid evacuations. The highway is closed indefinitely at the top of Molas Pass at mile marker 64 and Cometti Lane in Hermosa. There is also a closure point at Silverton.
The 416 Fire grew significantly on the west and northwest sides. The area is in the San Juan National Forest area and not near residential areas. No structures have been lost.
The Type I team managing the 416 fire will also assume command of the Burro Fire 10 miles west of the 416 Fire. That fire is burning in the San Juan National Forest about 23 miles northeast of Dolores. As of this morning, the Burro Fire is at 493 acres. The division will assume command of the fire at 6 a.m. Monday, said Shawn Bawden, a spokesman with the Type I team said.
“Because they are so close together, relatively speaking, a Type 1 team with that much experience can manage two fires at the same time,” he said.
Officials are expecting the fire above the Hermosa Cliffs to move north and east. Structure protections crews will continue to secure residences in the areas along the Highway 550 corridor. The fire has not crossed Highway 550.
Fire officials say they expect critical fire weather conditions today. A red flag warning is in place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Winds will be active around 10 a.m., with potential gusts up to 35 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The combination of weather and fuel conditions creates significant potential for fire intensity and growth today.
A rollout occurred overnight above Hermosa, according to a fire report this morning. A rollout is when burning materials roll downhill with the potential to ignite new fuel. Overnight crews successfully mitigated the hazard and successfully protected structures in the area. Crews are expecting the fire to be active today on the ridges above Hermosa and to continue back down the slopes. Fire managers plan to keep the fire on the ridge and out of the path of any structures.
Seven helicopters will aid the 813 firefighters battling the blaze today. Officials are preparing to battle the blaze for a long period of time, Bawden said.
“This is a long duration event,” Bawden said. “Firefighters will be here as long as it takes to get the job done.”
An evacuation center and shelter is open 24 hours a day at Escalante Middle School, 141 Baker Lane, in Durango. Evacuated residents are asked to check in at the evacuation center to receive credentials for re-entry when conditions allow the evacuation order to be lifted. Resident credentials are also available at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, 2500 Main Ave. in Durango.
Livestock can be evacuated to the La Plata County Fairgrounds at 2500 Main Ave. The emergency call center at (970) 385-8700 can help coordinate pick-up of livestock. Small animals are being accepted at the La Plata County Humane Society, 1111 South Camino del Rio, Durango (970) 259-2847.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an air quality health advisory due to wildfire smoke for a large portion of Southwest Colorado. The advisory was issued for La Plata County, San Juan County, eastern Dolores County, and northeastern Montezuma County. The advisory is in effect until 9 a.m. Monday.
The smoke is especially bad in the mornings, before atmospheric mixing occurs, according to the health department. Forecasts predict that smoke will move in a northeasterly direction this afternoon. The smoke will drain southward along the Animas River and produce moderate to heavy smoke for Hermosa and Durango.
This is a developing story. Check the durangoherald.com online for updates.