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Red Flag Warning issued for today, dry thunderstorms possible Complex size, 83,004 acres, zero percent contained

SUN  photo/Terri House Smoke filters through the valleys west of Continental Divide as the sun rises and the West Fork Complex fires continue to burn. A Red Flag Warning has been issued for the area, with a chance for dry thunderstorms later in the day.

SUN photo/Terri House
Smoke filters through the valleys west of Continental Divide as the sun rises and the West Fork Complex fires continue to burn. A Red Flag Warning has been issued for the area, with a chance for dry thunderstorms later in the day.

A Red Flag Warning has been issued today, June 27, for dry thunderstorms, as firefighters continue to deal with the West Fork Complex fires.  Thunderstorms will develop in the afternoon, and little if any moisture is expected.  Lightning and gusty winds are the primary concern.

Following are conditions reported this morning:

Western part of West Fork Fire:  The West Zone of the West Fork Fire is the portion of the fire burning south of the Continental Divide. Yesterday, firefighters used helicopters with water buckets to squelch spots above Born’s Lake.  There continue to be isolated fires in that area that are resistant to suppression efforts because of the beetle-killed spruce and the extreme rugged and steep terrain.  Crews today will be doing some light thinning of vegetation around the Bruce Spruce Resort.

Windy Pass Fire:  Activity on the Windy Pass Fire yesterday was minimal.  The fire grew 25 acres from1,350 to 1,375 acres this morning. Firefighters expect to tie off the contingency line along the west side and around to the north end of the fire.  They are taking advantage of natural features such as aspen stands, meadows, rock slopes and existing road and trails.  With the decrease in wind intensity the immediate threat to Wolf Creek Ski Area has diminished.

East Zone of the West Fork Complex (Includes Papoose and eastern part of West Fork fires): Portable retardant plants are being put in place near the Papoose Fire and the east side of the West Fork Fire.  This will allow aerial resources to respond more quickly to support the forces on the ground.

Papoose Fire:  The fire remained active through the night, primarily on the west and northwest flanks.  Firefighters worked through the night reinforcing hand lines and protecting structures as the fire continued to push into Crooked Creek and towards the Rio Grande dam.  Along Squaw Creek, firefighters used firing operations to remove vegetation in front of the fire in an effort to protect the dam and structures.  On the northeast side, near Workman Creek, the fire has worked its way past the structures along Colo.149, and as of this morning those structures are secure.  At this time there is no known structure loss.

Eastern part of West Fork Fire: The northeast flank of the fire is the most active as the fire burns near Elk Mountain.  Structure protection is in place along Colo. 149 and U.S. 160.  Sprinklers have been set up near structures and will be used in the event that the fire pushes to the east.  Firefighters continue to work around Lake Humphreys and Metroz Lake to protect structures as the fire burns into the area.

Evacuations and closures:  No additional closures or evacuations have been issued.  Along Colo. 149, traffic is being escorted between Wagon Wheel Gap and U.S. 160.  U.S. 160 from the chain-up area to South Fork remains closed.  Visit www.cotrip.org/roadConditions.htm for more information.

Emergency closures in place due to the West Fork Fire Complex currently affect about 50 miles of the Colorado Trail on the Rio Grande National Forest and about 150 miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail on both the Rio Grande and San Juan national forests.  These trail sections are closed to all public entry between San Luis Pass north of Creede, Stony Pass east of Silverton and Elwood Pass northeast of Pagosa Springs, as identified within the closure orders.   For more information, contact the Rio Grande National Forest at (719) 852-5941.   For additional information on road and trail closures affecting the Rio Grande National Forest go to: West Fork Fire Closures.

For additional information on road and trail closures affecting the San Juan National Forest go to: http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/sanjuan/alerts-notices.

Fire statistics           

Location:  14.5 miles north/northeast of Pagosa Springs.

Start Date: June 5, 2013.

Cause: lightning.

Complex size:  83,004 acres

Percent contained: zero.

Windy Pass: 1,403 acres .

Papoose: 26,483 acres.

West Fork: 55,118 acres.

Total personnel: 1,406.

This story was posted on June 27, 2013.