Firefighters battled extreme conditions Friday – including hot weather, explosive fire behavior and rugged terrain – but after all of it settled down by nightfall, no homes had been lost to the 416 Fire.
The fire jumped Hermosa Creek about a mile north of the Hermosa Creek Campground on Friday afternoon. Air tankers helped guide the fire west out of harm’s way and kept it from advancing south down the Hermosa Creek Drainage toward homes, said spokesman Neil Kephart.
“It does not pose, at this time, a threat to any more structures in that area,” Kephart said. “There’s no immediate threat to any structures.”
Crews’ primary focus Friday was to protect homes in the area, Kephart said. Hand crews continued structure protection in the Hermosa area and will continue to monitor properties overnight, he said.
Firefighters also battled flames near the eastern edge of the Hermosa Cliffs, north of the Animas Village Apartments in the 34000 block of U.S. Highway 550.
Heavy firefighting operations along the Highway 550 corridor prompted the road to be shut down for the day around 4 p.m. The highway is expected to reopen from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday with limited access.
On the northern end of the fire, crews used dozers and hand crews to prevent the fire from spreading toward homes. Fire advancement on the northern end prompted evacuations to 304 additional homes Friday morning. Residences from Electra Lake Drive north to Hermosa Cliffs Road and the north end of Two Dogs Trail subdivision were given notice at 10 a.m.
“In some places, they have put dozer lines around individual structures and groups of structures in preparation for the fire coming a little bit north, if it should,” Kephart said. “There has been attempts to prepare for the fire moving north before it gets to the Purgatory area. They try to anticipate the fire 48 hours ahead of time.”
Since the fire began Friday, 1,625 homes have been evacuated and 1,272 homes have been given pre-evacuation notice.
The fire, reported at 7,180 acres as of Friday morning, had 683 firefighters assigned to it as of Friday. That number is expected to increase when a Type I federal firefighting team assumes command at 6 a.m. Saturday. The team will move the incident command post from Purgatory Resort to Animas Valley Elementary School. Some crews will continue to use Purgatory as a base camp.
The Type I team will hold a community meeting at 6 p.m. Saturday in the La Plata County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, 2500 Main Ave. The meeting will be similar to the community meetings held Tuesday in La Plata County, said county spokeswoman Megan Graham. During that meeting, fire officials updated the community about firefighting efforts and expected fire activity.
La Plata County also set up a disaster assistance center for residents of La Plata County impacted by the 416 Fire. The center, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at the fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, will have local and regional resources connecting community members who have been evacuated or whose employment has been affected by the fire.
Purgatory Resort suspended its summer activities and will not open as planned Saturday and Sunday as a result of the 416 Fire. The resort’s lodging remains open, and guests are currently staying at the resort. The restaurant, market and deli will also remain open.
Purgatory has no timetable set for when summer activities will resume, said spokeswoman Kim Oyler. The resort previously announced it would open for summer activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Purgatory has been on pre-evacuation since June 1, when the fire broke out.
Another fire started around 4 p.m. Friday afternoon in Montezuma County. The fire, which was estimated to be about 40 acres Friday evening, started about 2 miles southeast of the Bear Creek trailhead and 2 miles north of Burro Mountain in the La Plata Mountains. As of Friday evening, no structures were threatened and no evacuation orders had been issued.
Firefighters from Cortez, Dolores, Rico and the Bureau of Land Management were responding to the fire. The cause of the fire was unknown.