The latest on the 416 Fire:
7:15 p.m.Fire officials said Sunday evening the 416 fire is acting as predicted and burning actively and intensely today. In Division D, the southwest flank, the fire is now established in North Buck Creek and Buck Creek drainage, and it continues to progress through Hermosa Creek drainage.
The fire is moving through these two drainages at a moderate rate of spread. Multiple aircraft are actively dropping water and retardant at this time. The fire is about a quarter of a mile from the nearest house, and structure protection is in place.
5 p.m.La Plata County commissioners will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday to consider enacting Stage 3 fire restrictions. Stage 3 restrictions would result in a closure of the San Juan National Forest, said Kara Chadwick, San Juan National Forest supervisor. It could also ban certain activities in unincorporated parts of the county.
3:45 p.m.According to fire officials, the 416 Fire operations on Sunday are going as expected. While there is an increase in fire behavior in the Delta and Hotel divisions, the blaze’s west side, the fire is behaving exactly as predicted with no surprising developments.
The large smoke column that can be seen Sunday afternoon is from that fire activity near the Lower Hermosa Campground. No structures are affected.
2:44 p.m.Heavy smoke is expected to blanket the region during the late evenings and early mornings while the 416 and Burro fires burn. The smoke is expected to cause low visibility and fine particles that can cause persistent coughing and difficulty breathing.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a dense smoke advisory for parts of Southwest Colorado from 9 p.m. Sunday through noon Monday. Smoke is expected to be heaviest in the U.S. Highway 550 corridor from Molas Pass through Durango and down to the New Mexico line, as well as the U.S. Highway 160 corridor between Hesperus and Bayfield, extending east past Pagosa Springs. Visibility is expected to be a quarter mile or less.
The greatest risk for dense smoke will occur between midnight Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday, the weather service said.
Severe weather behavior caused the 416 Fire to double in size Saturday. The fire is now 16,766 acres, and remains at 10 percent containment, according to fire officials.
An evacuation order was issued to 675 residences this morning to Purgatory/Durango Mountain Resort, Lake Purgatory, Silver Pick Lodge, Cascade Village, Mill Creek and all residences on both sides of U.S. Highway 550 between mile markers 46.5 to 53.1. Residents were given notifications at 9:45 a.m.
As of Sunday afternoon, Megan Graham, spokeswoman with La Plata County, said 2,156 evacuations have been ordered, and 373 homes have been given pre-evacuation notices.
Highway 550 was open for an hour this morning before it was shut down to aid evacuations. The highway is closed indefinitely at the top of Molas Pass at mile marker 64 and Cometti Lane in Hermosa (between mile markers 32 and 64).
The 416 Fire grew significantly on the west and northwest sides. The area is in the San Juan National Forest area and not near residential areas. No structures have been lost.
The Type I team managing the 416 fire will also assume command of the Burro Fire 10 miles west of the 416 Fire. That fire is burning in the San Juan National Forest about 23 miles northeast of Dolores. As of this morning, the Burro Fire is at 493 acres. The division will assume command of the fire at 6 a.m. Monday, said Shawn Bawden, a spokesman with the Type I team said.
“Because they are so close together, relatively speaking, a Type 1 team with that much experience can manage two fires at the same time,” he said.
Officials are expecting the fire above the Hermosa Cliffs to move north and east. Structure protections crews will continue to secure residences in the areas along the Highway 550 corridor. The fire has not crossed Highway 550.
Fire officials say they expect critical fire weather conditions today. A red flag warning is in place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Winds will be active around 10 a.m., with potential gusts up to 35 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The combination of weather and fuel conditions creates significant potential for fire intensity and growth today.
A rollout occurred overnight above Hermosa, according to a fire report this morning. A rollout is when burning materials roll downhill with the potential to ignite new fuel. Overnight crews successfully mitigated the hazard and successfully protected structures in the area. Crews are expecting the fire to be active today on the ridges above Hermosa and to continue back down the slopes. Fire managers plan to keep the fire on the ridge and out of the path of any structures.
Seven helicopters will aid the 813 firefighters battling the blaze today. Officials are preparing to battle the blaze for a long period of time, Bawden said.
“This is a long duration event,” Bawden said. “Firefighters will be here as long as it takes to get the job done.”
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also has issued an air quality health advisory because of wildfire smoke for a large portion of Southwest Colorado. The advisory was issued for northeastern Montezuma County, eastern Dolores County, and La Plata and San Juan counties. That advisory is in effect until 9 a.m. Monday.
When moderate to heavy smoke is present, residents should consider limiting physical exertion and time outside, according to San Juan Basin Public Health advisories. If visibility is less than 5 miles, smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy.
Air quality tends to improve in the afternoon, but if residents have been exposed to polluted air in the morning, they should still consider taking it slower later in the day, said Scott Landes, meteorology and prescribed fire supervisor with the state’s Air Pollution Control Division.
“The health effects of fine particles linger,” he said.
Here are some tips to protect yourself:
Consider relocating temporarily if smoke is present indoors and is making you ill.If you are having difficulty breathing, see a health provider.People with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.Close windows and doors and stay inside. However, do not close up your home tightly if it makes it dangerously warm inside.Run air conditioning if it filters air coming into the home.Use high-efficiency particulate air-filtration units if you have them.Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke, vacuuming, candles and other sources of additional air pollution.Do not use paper dust masks or hold a cloth over your face. These masks do not filter out the particles and gases in smoke.Close bedroom windows at night.To prepare for nighttime smoke, consider airing out your home during the early or middle of the afternoon if the smoke is more diluted.If your child is experiencing respiratory symptoms, contact your pediatrician or go to the nearest emergency room.Respirator face masks can protect residents from fine particles in smoke and they are available at hardware stores and pharmacies. However, using respirator masks can make it harder to breathe, which may make existing medical conditions worse.
An evacuation center and shelter is open 24 hours a day at Escalante Middle School, 141 Baker Lane, in Durango. Evacuated residents are asked to check in at the evacuation center to receive credentials for re-entry when conditions allow the evacuation order to be lifted. Resident credentials are also available at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, 2500 Main Ave. in Durango.
Livestock can be evacuated to the La Plata County Fairgrounds at 2500 Main Ave. The emergency call center at (970) 385-8700 can help coordinate pick-up of livestock. Small animals are being accepted at the La Plata County Humane Society, 1111 South Camino del Rio, Durango (970) 259-2847.
The smoke is especially bad in the mornings, before atmospheric mixing occurs, according to the health department. Forecasts predict that smoke will move in a northeasterly direction this afternoon. The smoke will drain southward along the Animas River and produce moderate to heavy smoke for Hermosa and Durango.
This is a developing story. Check the durangoherald.com online for updates.