Here is the latest on the 416 Fire:
The southern end of the closure of U.S. Highway 550 has been moved about two miles north to the northern intersection of Road County Road 250 (La Plata County), about mile marker 37.2, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. The relocation of this manned barricade will allow for better access for firefighting resources, as well as better public access of the lower part of County Road 250. The north end closure point remains at Electra Lake, at about mile marker 43.5.
3:45 p.m.Pre-evacuation notices have been issued to 252 residences on the east side of U.S. Highway 550 east to the Animas River from Mead/Albrecht Lane north to Bakers Bridge. This includes the Ranch and Goodman subdivisions.
A CodeRED notification was sent to residents and businesses in the pre-evacuation area, and law enforcement personnel are sharing the information door to door.
The new round of pre-evacuation notices raises the total to 1,273 homes, and 825 homes have been evacuated.
Residents on pre-evacuation can take the following steps to improve their safety and readiness in the event they need to evacuate:
Inside the house:Gather 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 house:Gather flammable items and bring them inside (patio furniture, children’s toys, door mats, trash cans, etc.).Move propane BBQ 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.Animals:Locate 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.
2:30 p.m. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which suspended coal-fired train rides until Sunday, announced Tuesday it will extend the suspension of service until at least June 17. All passengers will receive a full refund.
The D&SNG will also cancel its family oriented T-REX Express train ride schedule for June 16-17 and June 23-24.
In a news release, the railroad said it made the decision because of the 416 Fire and the region’s fire-prone conditions.
Limited diesel locomotive train service may be available later this month when it is deemed safe.
Increased fire activity on the north and south sides of the 416 Fire has created more visible smoke today. Fire officials continue to have success with keeping the fire from crossing U.S. Highway 550.
Earlier todayFirefighters battled warm and dry weather conditions Monday as the 416 Fire grew to 2,933 acres by late Monday.
The fire, which remains at 10 percent containment, was active until about 2 a.m. Tuesday, especially on the south flank near the Hermosa area, said Neal Kephart, a spokesman for the Type II management team battling the fire.
Crews will spend Tuesday battling the southern end of the fire, Kephart said. They have been forming construction lines in the area and have begun using wood chippers to reduce fuels and vegetation around structures in the area, he said.
“They’ve started construction in that area to stay ahead of it should it get that far,” Kephart said.
Firefighters will continue to defend the U.S. Highway 550 corridor and structures on the east side of the highway, Kephart said.
Crews expect extremely dry conditions the next few days. On Tuesday, temperatures are expected to be in the 80s and afternoon humidity is expected to be in the single digits, leading to extremely dry conditions, Kephart said. Gusts from the southwest could reach 20 mph, he said.
“The lower humidity and higher temperatures are going to lead to more active fire in the next few days,” Kephart said.
The northwest part of the fire continues to pose problems for crews due to the steep and rocky terrain, Kephart said.
“They’re continually assessing that and making plans,” Kephart said. “It’s an area of concern because of the difficult terrain up there. They’re going to scout that, look for areas to take advantage, especially with natural barriers and things that may help to slow the spread of it that way.”
Six helicopters, two fixed-wing planes and a National Guard helicopter will assist the 416 firefighters assigned to the blaze, he said.
There will be two community briefings Tuesday night to update residents about the fire and firefighting efforts. The first meeting will be at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Animas Valley Elementary School, 373 Hermosa Meadows Road. The second will be at 7 p.m. at La Plata County Fairground Exhibit Hall, 2500 Main Ave., in Durango.
Highway 550 will be open until 6 p.m. Tuesday with limited access. Law enforcement will escort drivers through the closure area; residents will not be allowed to exit the highway and return to their homes. The highway is subject to closure depending on weather conditions. The highway was shut down around 2 p.m. Monday due to the amount of smoke in the area.
“If activity along Highway 550 increases and there’s fire traffic in that area, it may be necessary to close for a certain time period again,” Kephart said. Those conditions are fluid.
Evacuation orders for 825 homes and pre-evacuation notices for 1,021 homes remain in effect.
Despite the dry conditions Kephart said firefighting crews remain determined to fight the fire.
“We have pretty much everything that we need,” he said. “Right now the attitudes remain really high and encouraging. People want to get out there and get the job done.”