With fire conditions already at historically dangerous levels in southwest Colorado, firefighters are nervously watching a forecast that calls for an approaching lightning storm that could spark new fires and bring strong winds that could push the 416 fire into neighborhoods north of Durango.
“It’s not good news,” said Shawn Dawden, spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.
A red flag watch is in place as a storm approaches the southwest mountains. The storm is expected to include dangerous cloud-to-mountain lightning strikes and winds that could reach 40 mph, Dawden said.
Over the last 24 hours, the voracious 416 wildfire consumed another 2,522 acres of mostly forest lands west of U.S. Highway 550, Dawden said Wednesday morning. The fire is 15 percent contained.
“I’m happy to say that we have not had any houses burned or people hurt,” Dawden said.
The most active part of the fire is in the southwest corner where the blaze is approaching neighborhoods, he said.
Currently, 1,029 firefighters, eight helicopters and several airplanes are battling the wildfire, Dawden said.
The drought-driven wildfire has closed the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado for the first time in its 113-year history. The general public is prohibited from entering the 1.8 million-acre forest that stretches across nine counties. The closure comes at the start of the area’s busy summer season, which attracts visitors and tourists from around the world.
Wildfires in the U.S.
The map shows active fire locations and all 2018 fire perimeters (not all fires have perimeter data, zoom in to see perimeters of smaller fires). To see all 2018 fire locations or to change the map background, click the map layers icon in the upper right corner of the map and click/unclick the boxes. Pinch or use buttons to zoom, or drag the map to see other areas; click a marker for details.
Source: GeoMAC; map by Kevin Hamm