The lifting of evacuation orders for 375 residences and 19 businesses on Thursday afternoon, coming a day after residents were allowed back into over 500 homes and 20 businesses in the Rockwood, Tamarron and Glacier Club neighborhoods, feels like a positive turning point in the fight against the 416 Fire.
Time will tell whether or not that is true, and returning residents remain on pre-evacuation alert. But cloudy skies and some rain in the forecast – and news that the fire, with over 30,000 acres charred, is 15 percent contained – are contributing to the feeling that perhaps the worst is over.
That feeling will not be shared by residents threatened by the southwest section of the blaze, where it is now most active.
Nor can it be said for the Burro Fire, burning out of control just 10 miles west of the 416 Fire and nearing 4,000 acres in size.
Any real optimism must be checked against a Wednesday statement by fire officials that the 416 Fire may not be fully contained until the end of July.
As for moisture in the forecast, a change in the weather might be a mixed blessing. Our chances for a thorough soaking do not look good, though the remnants of the first hurricane of the season in the East Pacific may make Tropical Storm Bud a true friend indeed.
Just as likely are thunderstorms that could bring lightning and gusty winds without any rain – a recipe for more fires. While a torrential rain could result in mudslides in areas just damaged by fire.
A shift in routine is in order for many of the more than 1,000-strong crew of firefighters who have fought the blaze. After two weeks they have earned a break, as well as thanks and praise, and fresh crews will rotate into the line.
Southwest Colorado, because of the fires, remains the state’s center of attention. That will be emphasized today with visits by Gov. John Hickenlooper, Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, and Rep. Scott Tipton.
We welcome them and their support of our communities, and ask for imagination, insight and ideas to help in dealing with what may well turn out to be as much of an economic disaster for our region as it is a natural one.