Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Heavy smoke due to existing fires — 90,056 acres — no fire threat to Pagosa Springs

SUN photo/Terri House Changing weather and wind conditions are bringing extremely heavy smoke to the west side of the divide and the West Fork Complex fires. This view shows Squaretop Mountain on the east range, obscured by smoke this morning. A change in the inversion is expected to lead to a lessening of the smoke as the day progresses, with winds picking up and the chance for dry lightning thunderstorms this afternoon. A Red Flag Warning is in effect for the area.

SUN photo/Terri House
Changing weather and wind conditions are bringing extremely heavy smoke to the west side of the divide and the West Fork Complex fires. This view shows Squaretop Mountain on the east range, obscured by smoke this morning. A change in the inversion is expected to lead to a lessening of the smoke as the day progresses, with winds picking up and the chance for dry lightning thunderstorms this afternoon. A Red Flag Warning is in effect for the area.

The heavy smoke in the area is from existing fires and there are no threats to Pagosa Springs.

A change in wind direction and an inversion brought heavy smoke into the San Juan River Valley and Pagosa Springs area yesterday evening. The inversion holding the smoke close to the ground should lift late this morning, allowing smoke to disperse.

A shift in wind direction coming from the south will aid in smoke dispersion.

There will be a Red Flag Warning today for dry thunderstorms. There is only a slight chance of rain from these storms, with lightning and gusty winds being the primary concerns.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is installing a portable tower at the Durango Airport due to the volume of aircraft flying in the area in support of the fires.

West Fork Fire: The West Zone of the West Fork fire is the portion of the fire burning south of the continental divide. There was a run of about one mile yesterday afternoon in beetle-killed spruce on the west flank of the fire in the Weminuche wilderness that put up a column during the day. It was well within the wilderness boundary and did not pose any threats.

Structure protection is in place for Bruce Spruce Resort, which is still open, and mitigation measures have been taken in the West Fork Campground that is also open.

Persistence in fire behavior will occur in the heavier fuel models. Slightly lower temperatures and higher humidities forecasted will not slow down fire behavior in the beetle kill stands. Group torching with single tree torching will continue on the fires. Thunderstorms- Outflows can create rapid changes in fire behavior. Set up lookouts.

Spruce beetle kill — Fire will continue to react and follow the spruce fir beetle kill fuels and build up intensity quickly with slope and wind alignment.

Non bug killed timber – Slight shading and cloud cover will help reduce spotting into these fuel types. Occasional torching and spotting can occur. Expect increased behavior with jackpots and beetle kill mixed in these stands.

Open Meadows — Spotting potential into these fuels will be slightly reduced. Moderate intensity can occur in the peak of the burn period.

Windy Pass Fire: Activity on the Windy Pass Fire yesterday was minimal. Crews will be re-enforcing and maintaining existing contingency lines during the day today.

Papoose Fire: Expect flanking and head fire on ridgetops and lower slopes. Spotting range 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile is likely to occur. Upslope valley winds with ridgetop aligning can accelerate behavior on the northern divisions. As fire burns out of the timber stands, firefighters expect low intensity burns in the grass.

The total fire area at the complex as of this morning is 90,056 acres. There are currently 1,561personnel working the fire on both sides of the divide.

Evacuations: Pre-evacuation notices are in place for West Fork Road and along East Fork Road.

Closures: Again, there are multiple road and trail closures; the primary one in the West Zone is U.S. 160 from just north of the chain-up area to the town of South Fork. For additional information on road and trail closures affecting the San Juan National Forest go to www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/sanjuan/alerts-notices

For the Rio Grande National Forest: www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/riogrande/alerts-notices

Highway

Due to forest fires in the area (including the West Fork Fire), US 160 over Wolf Creek Pass (between South Fork on the east side to east of Pagosa Springs on the west side) remains closed.

The road closure began on June 20 at 2:21 p.m. The alternate southern route between Alamosa and Pagosa Springs is U.S. 285 from Alamosa to Colo. 17 (Cumbres/La Manga Pass) to U.S. 84 into Pagosa Springs.

The multi-agency/multi-jurisdictional incident command team is working towards a possible opening of the pass on Saturday, June 29.

This opening is dependent upon three main events:  the local fire evacuation orders must be lifted prior to the highway opening; the comprehensive traffic control plan details need to be finalized (for safe escort of motorists); and the fire behavior must remain moderate.

Travelers must check CDOT’s traveler information site at www.cotrip.org before making travel plans.

This story was posted on June 28, 2013.