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Nearly 500 homes evacuated in Hermosa area; more pre-evacuations issued

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Thursday, June 7, 2018 1:03 PM
The Snake River Hot Shots make they way through Animas Village Apartments near Hermosa to work the 416 Fire on Thursday as residents prepare to leave their homes during the mandatory evacuation order.
Tim Sparks carries items out of his home while evacuating Thursday morning near Hermosa on County Road 201. The 416 Fire moved into the Hermosa Creek Drainage, causing a second round of mandatory evacuations, affecting about 500 more homes. “It’s kind of funny what you choose to take with you,” Sparks said.
La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith talks with members of the evacuation team Thursday morning before law enforcement went door-to-door notifying residents of new evacuation orders in the Hermosa area.
An evacuation order went into effect Thursday morning in the Hermosa area, where the 416 fire advanced Wednesday night.
This map shows the evacuation and pre-evacuation areas of the 416 Fire.
Colorado State Patrol trooper Brad Spargur escorts an elderly resident as Denakay Hutton, site manager, at the Animas Village Apartments, follows on Thursday morning during the mandatory evacuation order.
Denakay Hutton, site manager, at the Animas Village Apartments, hugs Allegra Eyetoo before leaving their homes on Thursday morning near Hermosa during the mandatory evacuation order.
Allegra Eyetoo, with her cat Cotton, pack up and leave their home at Animas Village Apartments on Thursday morning near Hermosa during the mandatory evacuation order.
Tim Sparks carries items out of his home near Hermosa on County Road 201 on Thursday morning to load in his truck as he evacuates the area. The 416 Fire has dropped down the slopes above Hermosa causing the second round of mandatory evacuations.
Lt. Ed Aber, with the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, goes over the mandatory evacuation plan on Thursday morning with a team of area law enforcement before going out to contact residents in the Hermosa area as the 416 Fire burns.

The latest news about the 416 Fire:

12:27 p.m.U.S. Highway 550 has reopened for through traffic only. Drivers will be escorted through the closure zone. Evacuees will have no access to their homes unless they need emergency medication.

The highway is scheduled to be open until 6 p.m., but if could close at any time if weather and fire conditions change.

The United States Postal Service says the fire is affecting about 800 deliveries off Highway 550 north of Mead Lane. Mail cannot be delivered. That mail, including checks and presecriptions, is being held at the Durango Post Office, 222 W. Eighth St. You must have ID to pick up the mail

11 a.m.The 416 Fire grew to 5,103 acres with most of the expansion occurring on the southwest side of the blaze near the Hermosa Creek Drainage, prompting the evacuation of nearly 500 homes early Thursday.

The new evacuation orders were issued to 497 homes late Wednesday night, giving them until 6 a.m. Thursday morning to leave. The evacuations are for residences north from Cometti/Mead Lane to the intersection of County Road 250C and U.S. Highway 550. The evacuation also includes county roads 201, 202, the north end of 203 and adjacent neighborhoods.

Another pre-evacuation notice was issued for 751 residences from Mead/Cometti/Albrecht Lane south to Trimble Lane west from the Animas River to include Falls Creek Ranch, Hidden Meadows, Dalton Ranch north of Trimble Lane and Durango Regency.

In total, more than 1,000 homes are evacuated and more than 1,500 homes are on pre-evacuation.

Highway 550 is expected to be closed until about noon Thursday when evacuations are complete. After that, the highway will open in a limited way: drivers will be escorted by law enforcement through the corridor, but drivers will not be allowed to stop or drive down side roads through the corridor.

The fire remained at 10 percent contained.

Hot and dry weather conditions, mixed with winds and low humidity allowed the fire to spread quickly, mostly on the southwest side. The fire reached the Lower Hermosa Campground on Wednesday evening, said Vickie Russo, a spokeswoman for the Type II team managing the blaze.

“The priority today will be in the Hermosa area, which is on the south side,” Russo said. “That’s pretty much where we’re putting everyone, most of the crews. The fire is just getting too close for comfort to those structures and the residences.”

Residences were given notice Wednesday evening to evacuate Thursday morning, which allowed them time to prepare, Russo said.

“It is better to give people a window for evacuations instead of, “You need to leave right now because the fire is in your backyard,’” Russo said. “Our top concern is public safety and firefighter safety. Whatever we need to do to keep the firefighters safe, whatever we need to do to keep the public safe, we’re going to be proactive about.”

Spot fires continue to be a problem for firefighters. One spot fire grew to 10 acres Wednesday on the west side of Highway 550 and east of an existing fire line.

“It was really active yesterday (Wednesday). A lot of it is because of the warm, dry conditions and a lot of it was because of the wind. We’re still in those severe fire conditions right now and that’s what we’re up against. Conditions are not in our favor.”

La Plata County Sheriff’s Office deputies discuss where they need to make contact with residents on Thursday morning during evacuations in the Hermosa area.
Jerry McBride/Durango Herald

Russo said the new evacuations will give firefighters better access to fight the fires.

There are 617 firefighters assigned to the blaze Thursday, with a majority of forces assigned to the southwest of the fire to protect homes in the Hermosa area. Crews will use sprinkler kits and will attempt to use hand crews and dozers to build containment lines to gain control of the fire.

“They’re doing a lot of what they did yesterday, they’re just ramping it up,” Russo said. “A lot of things have been done in preparation in case it comes down to protecting houses.”

Though the fire is growing mainly on the southwest side, the blaze is also expanding to the north, which prompted 34 homes to be placed on pre-evacuation notice Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters will continue to battle against “severe fire weather,” Russo said. Temperatures will be in the high 80s and 10 to 15 mph winds, with gusts that could reach up to 30 mph. There will be a minimum humidity from 6 to 11 percent. Smoke from the fire should clear out of Durango around 2 p.m., Russo said.

Crews will have the aid of six helicopters fighting the blaze with water drops. Slurry drops aren’t as effective on this fire for a number of reasons, including airplane visibility, proximity to the ground, and the effect slurry has in fighting the fire.

“Being able to do those bucket drops right now is crucial because they can really pinpoint where they’re going to drop,” Russo said. “Also with the smoke in the air, visibility being a little bit lower, they can be at a lower elevation than the big tankers. If the big tankers can’t see the ground then they can’t drop. Because of the canopy cover and with how dry it is, slurry isn’t a good tool right now. It’s not penetrating the canopy of the trees to get to the ground, and if it does get to the ground, the way the conditions are, it’s not as effective. Water is much more effective right now. Right tool for the job is what we’re looking at right now.”


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asemadeni@durangoherald.com

What you need to know

Community resourcesLa Plata County government hotline for residents evacuating: (970) 385-8700.Livestock can be evacuated to La Plata County Fairgrounds, 2500 Main Ave.Four Corners Back Country Horsemen will assist with horse and livestock evacuations, call (570) 228-1340.The Browning Ranch in Farmington volunteered to host horses during evacuations. Call Chris Maedche (505) 681-3595.Small animals can be evacuated to La Plata County Humane Society, 111 South Camino del Rio.Tips for pre-evacuationFor people who received a pre-evacuation notice, these steps can improve their safety and expedite departure should an evacuation become necessary.
Inside the houseGather medications.Pack a bag with clothing and essentials.Shut off air conditioning and fans.Shut all windows and doors before leaving.If you have time, gather paperwork and photographs that cannot be replaced.Outside the houseGather flammable items and bring them inside (patio furniture, children’s toys, door mats, trash cans, etc.).Move propane barbecue appliances away from structures. Connect garden hoses to outside water valves or spigots for use by firefighters. Fill water buckets and place them around the house.Don’t leave sprinklers or water running; this can affect critical water pressure.Leave exterior lights on so your home is visible to firefighters in the smoke or darkness of night.Back your car into the driveway with vehicle loaded and all doors and windows closed. Carry your car keys with you.AnimalsLocate your pets and keep them nearby.Prepare livestock for transport and plan to move them to a safe location early.Pack food and medications for your pets.InsuranceTake pictures of the interior of your house to remember and document personal possessions.Determine what is sentimental and can’t be replaced.DonationsCommunity Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado is accepting monetary donations for Community Emergency Relief Fund. This fund is set up for broad-based community emergencies in Southwest Colorado. The Advisory Committee is working with government agencies and local businesses to develop a strategy for distributing the funds raised. Efforts will support local people and efforts related to 416 Fire. To donate to CERF, residents can send a check to The Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1673, Durango, CO 81302 or donate online at www.swcommunityfoundation.orgDonations of clothing and household items accepted at Discover Goodwill of Durango, 1230 Escalante Drive.Financial donations can be made to the Community Emergency Relief Fund by calling (970) 375-5807.

Gallery: Thursday reader photos: 416 Fire

Courtesy of Debra Van Windgarden
This photo of the 416 Fire was taken from Animas City Mountain at 11:43 a.m. Thursday.
View Wednesday night from the valley. Courtesy of Scott Zeitler
View from Bayfield off U.S. Highway 160. Courtesy of Charlene Thomas
View Wednesday night from the Animas Overlook at Junction Creek Road. Courtesy of Padric McCelvey
Courtesy of Justin Meek
View Wednesday from Dalton Ranch. Courtesy of Tiffany Spence
View Wednesday from Dalton Ranch. Courtesy of Tiffany Spence
View Wednesday from Dalton Ranch. Courtesy of Tiffany Spence
Courtesy of Christian Holmen
Courtesy of Christian Holmen
Wednesday evening view from Hermosa Meadows Road. Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Wednesday evening view from Hermosa Meadows Road. Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Wednesday evening view from Hermosa Meadows Road. Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Wednesday evening view from Hermosa Meadows Road. Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Wednesday evening view from Hermosa Meadows Road. Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Wednesday evening view from Hermosa Meadows Road. Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Wednesday evening view from Hermosa Meadows Road. Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Wednesday evening view from Hermosa Meadows Road. Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Late Wednesday afternoon view from Falls Creek Ranch. Courtesy of Mary Ann Bryant
Late Wednesday afternoon view from Falls Creek Ranch. Courtesy of Mary Ann Bryant
Late Wednesday afternoon view from Falls Creek Ranch. Courtesy of Mary Ann Bryant
Late Wednesday afternoon view from Falls Creek Ranch. Courtesy of Mary Ann Bryant
Late Wednesday afternoon view from Falls Creek Ranch. Courtesy of Mary Ann Bryant
Courtesy of Patricia Lupia
Courtesy of Patricia Lupia
View Wednesday night from North College Drive. Courtesy of Rachelle Grizzard
View of the fire cresting on Hermosa Mountain Wednesday night as seen from County Road 250. Courtesy of Thomas R. Williamson
Courtesy of Rachelle Grizzard
Courtesy of Amelia Davenport
Courtesy of Debra Van Windgarden
This photo of the 416 Fire was taken from Animas City Mountain at 11:13 a.m. Thursday.
Courtesy of Mary Grizzard
Courtesy of Mary Grizzard
Courtesy of Andrew Wracher
Courtesy of Andrew Wracher
Courtesy of Andrew Wracher
Courtesy of Andrew Wracher
Courtesy of Andrew Wracher
Courtesy of Andrew Wracher
Courtesy of Andrew Wracher
Courtesy of Andrew Wracher
Courtesy of Patricia Haupt
Courtesy of Jessica Rollins
Courtesy of Jessica Rollins
Courtesy of Jessica Rollins
Courtesy of Jessica Rollins
Courtesy of Jessica Rollins
Courtesy of Jessica Rollins
Courtesy of Jessica Rollins
Courtesy of Mike Lynagh
Courtesy of Mike Lynagh
Courtesy of Mike Lynagh
Courtesy of Mike Lynagh
Courtesy of Mike Lynagh
Courtesy of Mike Lynagh
Courtesy of Mike Lynagh
Courtesy of Mike Lynagh
Courtesy of Mike Lynagh
Courtesy of Mike Lynagh
Courtesy of Mike Lynagh
Courtesy of Missy Stephenson
Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Courtesy of Kate Huxel
Courtesy of Kate Huxel
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