5:15 p.m.The city is tightening up its fire restrictions. Backyard fire pits and charcoal grills are now prohibited to reduce fire danger, City Manager Ron LeBlanc said, in a recent meeting. Residents are allowed to use gas-fired grills, he said.“I would hope the residents of Durango would use common sense and judgment in making those decisions in their home,” he said. The city also prohibits open burning, discharging firearms, launching fireworks and smoking in the open space. 3:14 p.m.The wildfire burning north of Durango isn’t going to slow down this year’s primary election. Ballots were sent out this week, said Tiffany Parker, La Plata County clerk and recorder.
Residents who are evacuated because of the 416 Fire can pickup their mail at the post office, which will soon include ballots for the upcoming primary election, she said.
If the evacuees don’t have their ballot, they are welcome to go to the Clerk and Recorder’s Office and receive a replacement ballot, she said.
The ballots must be received by the Clerk and Recorder’s Office or delivered to a drop-off site by June 26.
“There’s still time. I just wanted people to be aware that those ballots have gone out,” Parker said. “We’ll do whatever we can within the law to accommodate people.”
2:43 p.m.A Type I federal firefighting team is mobilizing Wednesday to take command of the 416 Fire, said Steven Hall, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center.
The Type I team will be briefed on the fire’s events Thursday evening and will assume command of the fire at 6 a.m. Saturday, spokesman Neal Kephart said. The incoming team will spend Friday “shadowing” the Type II team.
“That assures a smooth transition,” Kephart said. “They’re learning from the team that’s here and getting all the details of each position.”
A lot of factors go into the decision to assign a Type I team to an incident, including size, need for resources and threat to structure, Hall said.
“The big distinction between Type I and Type II is going to be complexity of the fire,” Hall said. “Complexity that typically makes us look at a Type I team versus a Type II team is threats to homes and private property. That’s going to be one of the big deciding factors,” he said.
12:31 p.m.Looking to catch a view of the fire and participate in local activities?
Purgatory Resort will reopen plaza activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Purgatory offers a discounted Total Adventure Ticket which includes five activities for $29 at its office located at 2615 Main Ave. in Durango. Twilight Lake, located across the highway from Purgatory Resort, also will open this weekend for kayaking, paddle boarding and other water sports.
Purgatory mountain activities, including mountain bike trails, scenic chairlift, hiking trails, and alpine slide won’t be open because of the 416 Fire.
Purgatory’s operating schedule after Sunday will be announced at a later date. Should conditions change, Purgatory’s operations may be suspended at any time.
U.S. Highway 550 is expected to be open with limited access, which could changed based on weather and fire conditions.
Purgatory Resort has been closed since Friday, June 1, when the fire started.
A Type II incident command team overseeing the fire is located at the resort. But those fire operations are not occupying space in Purgatory Plaza.
12:05 p.m.Sheriff Bruce Conrad has issued pre-evacuation notices to 34 additional homes in San Juan County north of the 416 Fire. Previous, only homes in Cascade Village were placed on pre-evacuation notice in San Juan County.
All properties between mile makers 50 to 54 on Highway 550, and all of the following roads are on pre-evacuation notice: Lime Creek Road (County Road 1, Cascade Creek Road (County Road 27), Macfiretree Lane, Spud Circle, and Mill Creek Lane.
11:40 a.m.A community meeting that was scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Silverton Town Hall has been moved to Silverton School Gym on 12th and Reese St.
Update from Wednesday morningHigh temperatures combined with low humidity helped the 416 Fire to grow to over 4,000 acres as of Wednesday morning.
Overnight flights mapped the fire at 4,015 acres, which is about 1,000 acres larger than the it was Tuesday morning. Containment remained at 10 percent.
“Yesterday was an active day for the 416 fire,” said Bethany Urban, a spokeswoman for the Type II firefighting team. “There were definitely some gusty winds from the south, temperatures were a bit higher and we had lower relative humidity levels, so obviously that increased fire behavior.”
Similar fire behavior is expected Wednesday, Urban said. The fire had active crown runs on the southern end of the fire until around 1 a.m., Wednesday. The fire spread mainly to the south, which prompted an additional 252 pre-evacuation notices Tuesday afternoon in the Hermosa area on the east side of U.S. Highway 550.
Crews planned to spend Wednesday protecting structures in the Hermosa area and building defensible lines along the Highway 550 corridor.
“Crews are helping residents remove flammable material from around their homes and helping create sensible space around residences to get ahead of the fire’s movement,” Urban said. “They’re going to continue to be working on projects that they’ve been working on for the last several days.”
Aerial missions had been planned for the south flank of the fire, but fire officials said conditions on the ground didn’t warrant the flights, she said. Urban said the crews were starting to make progress toward building containment lines rather than working on direct suppression and attack.
“We’re really trying to get ahead and prepare those areas so that they can scout ahead of the fire and identify locations that they can engage the fire so if it does start to spread they can engage it in an area that is safe to do so,” she said.
Six helicopters are available to fight the fire, but they will be used only if it is necessary to aid the overall firefighting strategy, she said.
“We’re using those as conditions warrant,” Urban said. “It kind of depends on the conditions of the weather as well as what they’re trying to drop on, what kind of trees, what type of ground cover, and given that the topography is so complex, there are some areas where it’s effective to drop suppressants from the choppers and others where it’s not really very effective.”
Firefighters will continue to battle against unfavorable weather conditions. The temperature is expected to reach 88 degrees Wednesday with low humidity and 10 to 15 mph winds, said Tom Renwick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. The forecast looks similar over the course of the next few days.
“Today our fire behavior risk is considered high,” Urban said. “Tomorrow (Thursday) is actually considered severe. This week is definitely a critical fire-level week.
The federal incident command team had 598 firefighters fighting the blaze, with more expected to join Wednesday.
“It’s an active fire,” Urban said. “It’s going to be burning for a little while. We don’t anticipate this fire will be extinguished in the coming days. We’ll likely see some growth before it’s all done.”
Durango woke up to a heavy dose of smoke Wednesday morning. Urban said the smoke should persist until 1 p.m. San Juan Basin Public Health issued an air-quality health advisory that will remain in effect until at least Thursday.
“As the fire continues to grow, air quality could become an issue,” Urban said. “There may be some decreasing air quality in the area.”
Two community meetings were held Tuesday evening to inform residents on the fire’s progress. A third community meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Silverton School Gym on 12th and Reese St.
Highway 550 will reopen under limited access from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The south end of the road closure was moved up from Baker’s Bridge to County Road 250.