Additional firefighters arrived Sunday to help battle the 416 Fire and more were expected Monday.
Don Ferguson, a public information officer for the 416 Fire, said approximately 10 engines and three additional hand crews, each hand crew with 20 firefighters, were expected to arrive – bolstering the existing ground crews that totaled 360 firefighters on Sunday.
Also, two or three firefighters will accompany the 10 engines, depending on the size of the engine, he said.
The focus of firefighting efforts will shift to the northeast perimeter on Monday as crews work to enhance fire lines guarding Purgatory Resort.
“We completed firing operations along the south end, and that’s a critical piece of the puzzle for us,” Ferguson said.
The burnouts – the careful use of fire to remove unburned fuels between the control line and the main fire – were conducted along Forest Road 171 to a rock scree field on the east side of Olga Little Mountain.
They took out islands of unburned fuel close to fire lines on the south, and that allows the transfer of resources to the northeast perimeter.
“We should be able to move to patrol-and-monitor status along the southern end (on Monday),” Ferguson said.
The fire moved moderately north on Sunday, he said.
“The fire was much more sedate. We just didn’t have the conditions we faced earlier in the week, and I expect that to continue for the next couple of days,” Ferguson said.
Brandalyn Vonk, a public information officer on the 416 Fire, said some confusion has emerged about the evacuation status around the Ranch subdivision near Honeyville.
Residents north of the Ranch are not under either evacuation or pre-evacuation and are clear to stay in their homes. Residents south of the Ranch also can stay in their homes, but they are under a pre-evacuation notice, she said.
Purgatory Resort will reopen from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday for summer activities. It was forced to close shortly after the 416 Fire was first reported June 1.
Ferguson said fire officials are unlikely to conduct burnouts on the north end of the fire unless the fire makes an unexpected run.
“Hopefully, we won’t have to do this,” he said.
Durango and Hermosa saw poor air quality early Sunday and that was expected to be a problem Sunday night as well.
However, much of the smoke cleared by the afternoon and into the evening.
The National Weather Service issued a dense smoke advisory from 10 p.m. Sunday to 10 a.m. Monday for Durango and the U.S. Highway 550 corridor from Coal Bank Pass south to the New Mexico line and along U.S. Highway 160 from Hesperus through Bayfield.
The greatest potential for dense smoke will occur between midnight Sunday and 9 a.m. Monday, with visibility expected to drop to one-fourth of a mile or less at times.
According to a news release issued Sunday morning by the National Incident Management Organization, on Saturday night, winds from the northwest to the southeast from a passing dry, cold front brought smoke from the 416 Fire south to lower elevations through the Animas River drainages early Sunday.
The cold front allowed incident meteorologists to downgrade the red-flag warning to a fire weather watch. The change in weather also slowed the fire’s progress on the north and northwest.
The 416 Fire is now estimated at 49,301 acres and has grown by about 12,000 acres in the last three days. It is 37 percent contained. As of Sunday, it has cost $26.4 million to fight.
NIMO officials expect fire activity to diminish over the next 36 hours – with an unstable, cooler air mass over the west side of the fire.
Fire managers are also taking advantage of higher humidity, cloud cover and a slight cooling to increase firing operations along the western perimeter.
Northwest movement of the Burro Fire, which is burning west of the 416 Fire, was slowed Saturday by less volatile fuels and light winds. Moderate fire activity was also seen to the southeast, but all areas of the fire remained inside fire lines that firefighters have widened with burnouts. Firefighters extended control lines near Burro Mountain and improved existing lines by extinguishing smoldering hot spots.
The Burro Fire grew by about 86 acres Saturday, reaching a total of 4,388 acres in the Bear Creek Canyon area. Containment is at 40 percent.