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Firefighting efforts wind down on 416 Fire; moisture to persist this week

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Monday, July 9, 2018 12:52 PM
Control of the 416 Fire will be handed over to the San Juan National Forest at 6 p.m. Tuesday, another sign the fire no longer presents an immediate threat to life or private property.

Afternoon rains last weekend helped tame the 416 Fire, allowing the release of most firefighting resources and enabling the transfer of management from the National Incident Management Organization to the San Juan National Forest.

“We have reached a point where the fire is no longer any kind of a significant threat to people, property, infrastructure,” said Al Nash, a spokesman for the NIMO team.

Nash said there will no longer be aggressive firefighting, though firefighters will be monitoring fire conditions.

It is possible there will be flare ups as hot spots find heavy fuel and produce visible smoke, however those areas are well within the fire’s perimeter, he said.

Improving conditions allow the NIMO team to transfer management of the fire to the San Juan National Forest. The SJNF will take command at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nash said.

After Monday, the 416 Fire Facebook page, information hotline phone numbers and InciWeb will no longer be active. The national forest will handle communications, he said.

A pre-evacuation remains in place for over 300 homes north of Durango for risk of flooding caused by runoff from the 54,129-acre burn area, including High Meadows Ranch, Falls Creek Ranch and Sanctuary subdivisions, as well as Durango Regency mobile home park, Hermosa Circle and Tripp Creek.

Rain is in the forecast throughout the week. There have been no reports of flooding, and there is no timeline for when the pre-evacuation will be lifted, said Megan Graham, spokeswoman for La Plata County.

The burn area received rainfall last weekend, but moisture totals were not available Monday.

Matthew Aleksa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the rain last weekend over the burn area was not as heavy as feared.

The weather pattern has been favoring higher elevations.

Monday includes a slight chance of afternoon showers, and the pattern will persist through Thursday.

The trend is similar to monsoons, a seasonal weather pattern marked by daily rain showers, but that hasn’t arrived yet, Aleksa said. But Durango is on the cusp of monsoons, he said.

The fire could smolder until the brink of winter, Nash said.

“Eventually, snow will put out the fire,” he said.

asimonovich@durangoherald.com

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