Hot-shot crews and crews assigned to fire engines worked to improve an existing fire line along Junction Creek Road on Monday as the 416 Fire spewed smoke visible from Durango for a second consecutive day.
The blaze has shown signs of ramping up, growing by nearly 600 acres in 24 hours, according to an estimate released Monday.
Work done on fire lines Monday will give fire managers the opportunity to use burnouts in advance of the fire along Forest Road 171 if the topography and weather allow, according to a news release issued Monday night.
Also Monday, fire crews were visible along the U.S. Highway 550 corridor as they extinguished hot spots and patrolled areas west of Highway 550.
Rain tempered some aspects of the fire June 16 and 17 – causing a break from smoke-filled mornings – but large plumes of smoke have slowly returned, bringing a return to deteriorated air quality. The San Juan Basin Health Department issued an air-quality health advisory Monday morning.
According to a fire update Monday from the National Incident Management Organization overseeing the blaze, the 416 Fire grew by 584 acres from Sunday to Monday, driven by winds that reached up to 40 mph. The 416 Fire has burned a total of 34,962 acres, mostly on the San Juan National Forest. It is listed at 37 percent containment. The cost to battle the blaze as of Monday was $22.9 million.
“Fire managers wish residents to know that the fire is not out, and it will not be out until the arrival of significant moisture,” Joe Reinarz, incident commander, wrote in a morning update.
Weather conditions favorable to active fire behavior are expected to persist throughout the week with hot temperatures that could reach up to 94 degrees, low humidity values and high winds.
“Fuels continue to dry and will react to small environmental changes,” Reinarz wrote. “When weather conditions, susceptible fuel, and topographical conditions align, fire behavior has potential for rapid and intense increase.”
Total personnel battling the blaze was at 459 on Monday. Firefighters had 15 engines, five bulldozers and a water tender available to them. In addition, three helicopters and one-fixed wing air tanker was available.
Fire officials expect plumes of smoke to be visible from Durango for several days as the fire burns through dry fuels aided by high temperatures and a lack of precipitation. Impacts from the smoke, officials said, will be influenced by the topography where the burn is active and weather conditions.
On Sunday, two columns of smoke were visible from Clear Creek and the Hope/Deer Creek areas. Winds from the west brought significant amounts of smoke down the Hermosa Creek drainage and to homes in Hermosa.
As the fire creeps toward Junction Creek Road, Reinarz said hot-shot crews will assess the need for future burnout operations on the west side of the fire.
“The 416 Fire is an evolving fire,” he said. “Much patience is required during monitoring, operational planning, and tactical decisions in order to keep firefighters safe in terrain that is steep, rugged, and often inaccessible.”
San Juan Basin Health Department said heavy smoke should return and settle into Hermosa and possibly Durango on Tuesday morning. Real-time air-quality information can be found here: https://bit.ly/2yGsyt4