Gentler winds help fight

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Gentler winds help fight

Blaze now is nation’s highest wildfire priority
La Plata keeps local resources at the ready

With thousands of acres burning just two counties away, local fire officials are keeping a close eye on La Plata County’s firefighting resources should a fire start here.
Local fire districts have sent resources to the West Fork Complex, but they are starting to look “a little more seriously at the crews that are away,” Butch Knowlton, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management, said Tuesday.
“They want to have ample and maximum protection for La Plata County so some of those crews are staying closer to La Plata County,” Knowlton said.
Aircraft working on the West Fork Complex also would be available to help with an initial attack here, he said.
Thus far, local, tribal and federal agencies have decided to hold off on imposing stage 2 fire restrictions, though that could change quickly, Knowlton said. Stage 1 restrictions are working quite well, and the massive columns of smoke rising above the eastern horizon have served to increase awareness about fire risk among residents, he said.
At this point, Knowlton said his biggest fear is that thunderstorms moving into the area will bring lightning without a lot of precipitation.
It’s not uncommon to have 1,000 lightning strikes coming from storms that move across the county, which presents a lot of potential fire starts, he said.
ecowan@durangoherald.com

Gentler winds help fight

Firefighters battle the Papoose Fire 15 miles southwest of Creede off Colorado Highway 149 on Tuesday afternoon. Of the three fires in the West Fork Complex, the Papoose Fire worries firefighting officials the most because it has the potential to harm waterways and reservoirs.
Drivers heading west on U.S. Highway 160 were turned away at South Fork on Tuesday afternoon. Officials were looking at ways to allow limited traffic through Wolf Creek Pass, but no decisions had been made as of Tuesday evening.
Destruction from the Windy Pass Fire was visible from the Continental Divide looking west Tuesday. Currently, 1,313 firefighters are battling the three blazes of the West Fork Complex.
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