Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

1300 homes evacuated as 416 fire north of Durango grows

1300 homes evacuated as 416 fire north of Durango grows

A wildfire in southwestern Colorado doubled in size from Saturday morning to Sunday morning and forced hundreds more evacuations. So far firefighters have been able to keep it west of Highway 550, and until Friday it was east of Hermosa Creek. At least 675 homes are affected by the new evacuations.

Large smoke columns visible Sunday from Durango came as fire behavior intensified near the Lower Hermosa Campground and burned conifer stands. On Friday night, Fremont County Sheriff's Office said the fire had grown to more than 30 acres and was headed northeast. The closure is planned in order to protect natural resources and public safety, officials said.

An evacuation order was issued Friday morning for 304 homes on the east and west sides of U.S. Highway 550 from Electra Lake Drive north to Hermosa Cliffs Road and the north end of Two Dogs Trail subdivision.

Aircraft are monitoring the fire's west flank. The fire in this area is behaving as predicted, according to fire authorities.

The Haines Index, used by firefighters to assess the stability and dryness of air over fires, is at its maximum level of six, officials said. The rugged area in the San Juan National Forest is not near residential areas. Officials are preparing to battle the blaze for a long time, said Shawn Bawden, a fire information officer.

No structures have been lost.

The so-called 416 Fire in southwest Colorado had burned almost 17,000 acres (6,880 hectares) by Sunday afternoon, an area larger than Manhattan.

The Type I team managing the 416 Fire will also assume command of the Burro Fire at 6 a.m. Monday and a separate camp will be set up for management of the Burro Fire.

Critical weather conditions are expected during the weekend.

A release from the La Plata County government last week said: "Wind and weather conditions on Saturday helped to limit the physical growth of the fire, with 3-5 miles per hour winds and gusts up to 10 miles per hour".

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a dense smoke advisory for Southwest Colorado from 9 p.m. Sunday through noon Monday.

A stubborn Colorado wildfire grew by around a fifth on Saturday and was expected to continue to grow Sunday, consuming sparsely populated land as low humidity and high winds left firefighters bracing for it to spread, officials said. Fire officials said in the Saturday update that Highway 550 was closed from mile marker 32 to 47 and pilot cars were escorting traffic through there.

An additional 220 homes were evacuated Saturday, said Megan Graham, a spokeswoman for La Plata County, Colorado.

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