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Following is the July 5 update on the status of the West Fork Complex fires.
East Zone of the West Fork Complex (Includes Papoose and Eastern Part of West Fork Fires):
The strategies for operations on the fire include continuing protection for structures and high value resources, as well as confining the fire to areas where it will not pose a threat to local communities during the remainder of the summer.
Papoose Fire: Yesterday, fire activity was minimal, with single trees burning and deep needle litter (duff) continuing to burn. Over the last few days, Papoose has not seen the moisture that West Fork has. This has caused continued drying of vegetation. With increased wind in the afternoons, the potential for fire spreading and spotting is high daily. Firefighters continue mop up around structures and chipping vegetation that will cause any increased fire hazard. Helicopters will aid firefighters in keeping any hot areas of the fire from spreading. The fire continues to be active in the northwest, near the Reservoir, and along Colo. 149. Burn out operations along some of the meadows near Colo. 149 is planned again today which will allow firefighters the opportunity to even out the fire line and achieve confinement.
Eastern Part of West Fork Fire: Firefighters will continue chipping operations around homes where limbs and brush were cleared so fire hazard is reduced. Firefighters will continue fireline construction through the Elk Mountain area and monitor areas along Highway 160 where fire remains active.
West Zone of West Fork Complex (Includes Western Part of West Fork and Windy Pass Fires):
Minimal fire growth occurred on the fire last night. Firefighters will continue to patrol and monitor the fire and are poised to respond to any new fire starts that may have occurred during the past few days. The fires will continue to be monitored by air.
West Zone West Fork Fire: There was very little activity last evening. The West Zone of the West Fork fire is the portion of the fire burning south of the continental divide. Structure protection is still in place for the Wolf Creek Ski Area, Born’s Lake Cabins, and Bruce Spruce Resort. The West Fork Campground is open.
Windy Pass Fire: Monitoring by air will continue today as well as firefighters continue to patrol and monitor the fire area.
Moisture will continue to increase Friday and into the weekend. This will set the stage for scattered showers and thunderstorms. An increase of widespread precipitation will be Sunday. Temperatures will be in the mid 70s with winds from the west to northwest. Minimal moisture was observed on the fire last evening.
Public health and safety: Smoke monitors are in place in Pagosa Springs, Freemon’s Ranch, Creede, and South Fork. The monitors are identified as #78 (Creede), #69 (Freemon’s Ranch), #25 (South Fork), and #65 (Pagosa Springs). All monitors can be accessed through the map located at www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/smoke.pl. Times displayed are in GMT — subtract six hours to get local time (MDT). For the official Colorado Smoke Outlook, visit www.colorado.gov/airquality/colo_advisory.aspx and www.colorado.gov/airquality/wildfire.aspx for further health advisory information.
Use caution when traveling along Colo. 149 and U.S. 160. Heavy fire traffic can be expected along the highways and within the communities of South Fork, Creede, and Del Norte. In addition, heavy holiday traffic is expected in the same area, and including Pagosa Springs. Do not stop along the roads to take pictures of the fire or firefighters as doing so could impede fire operations.
Evacuations and closures: Some communities still remain under evacuation, others on pre-evacuation notice. Residents are reminded to remain vigilant and be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice in the event that fire activity changes. Visit http://westforkfirecomplex.blogspot.com/ for a list of areas currently under evacuation or pre-evacuation. The list will be updated as conditions change.
For additional information on road and trail closures and fire restrictions affecting the San Juan National Forest go to www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/sanjuan/alerts-notices.
For additional information on road and trail closures and fire restrictions affecting the Rio Grande National Forest go to www.fs.usda.gov/detail/riogrande/.
Location: 14.5 miles north/northeast of Pagosa Springs, CO
Start Date: 06/05/2013.
Cause: lightning .
Complex Size: 110,028 acres.
Percent Contained: 20 percent.
West Fork: 59,959 acres.
Windy Pass: 1,417 acres .
Papoose: 48,652 acres.
Total Personnel: 1,169.
Resources Include: seven Type 1 hand crews, 11 Type 2 hand crews, 56 engines, two dozers, 17 water tenders, and overhead personnel.
Air Resources: six Type 1 helicopters, one Type 2 helicopter, and five Type 3 helicopters.
Firefighters responded to two new fires in Archuleta County, both within 1/2 mile of each other north of U.S. 160 and both started by lightning. One was on private land and one on national forest; they were both contained and controlled yesterday.
Winds for the next five days are expected to be out of the north which means smoke will continue to be present across much of southwest Colorado, with the Pagosa Springs area being the most heavily impacted. The majority of smoke is from the Papoose Fire, one of three fires making up the West Fork Complex, which grew 11,000 acres on Wednesday.
To report a fire on public lands, please contact the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center at 385-1324 or call 911.