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West Fork Complex: 110,028 acres, two small local fires controlled

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.

Weather:

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/.

Fire statistics

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.

Local fires

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.

This story was posted on July 5, 2013.
  • What a Shame

    “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.”
    I think most of us wish that the West Fork fire would have been “contained and controlled” between June 5 and June 13 so that the current situation which could have been avoided, would have been. Please don’t to that again. Lessons from this and last years fire dictate a policy change, especially during dry months and drought conditions.

    • Trying not to choke on smoke

      I agree. Last year was too close to home as it was. This year is on a much grander scale. While fie is a natural process and this may be necessary…to what end? At what cost? Why don’t we have control burns? Yeah more of those. Where it is controlled, hence the title “control burn.” I want my kids to see and enjoy the beautiful state I grew up in and at this point two of my favorite areas are burning or are burnt to a crisp. Not to be so beautiful again in my lifetime.

      • tedthedog

        Current Forest Service regulations govern what fires can be fully supressed: only if they threaten structures.
        But watching a small fire burn in beetle-killed tinder dry forest is like watching a fuse burn on a bomb.
        It’s what it’s connected to that’s the real problem.
        The public needs to convey to Forest Service management that they need to adapt current policy to current conditions (the fire crews themselves can only follow regulations set from the top).

        • What a Shame

          My post was meant for for those “from the top” who decided to let this explode with no attempts at suppression. This happened last summer too with a small lightening fire that could have been put out long before it exploded into a major wildfire that threatened homes. After that, word was that the official who made that decision was fired. Now I’m thinking that isn’t the case. Who made the decision anyway? Just like last year, whoever that was/is is hiding in the shadows. If they were/are so right, then why don’t they come out now, front and center, and say so? Because they’d probably get run out of here on a rail, that’s why. (and well they should be.)

          • ajpagosa

            I don’t like the current policy either but what are we going to do with all that beetle kill? Eventually it has to either burn out or be cleared before newer healthier forests grow. Past mismanagement (mostly misguided conservation efforts) made this present situation much worse and now we have to deal with it.

            I don’t see a good or cheap solution but letting it burn is a lot cheaper than clearing it out of no one gets hurt and no structures are lost.

            As far as ruining the view, I am not much into looking at pristine dead beetle kill as far as the eye can see.

          • What a Shame

            controlled burns during wet seasons instead of out of controll wildfires during dry ones perhaps?

          • ajpagosa

            I would favor chaining or nailing environmentalists and federal officials responsible for getting us to this point to some of the dead trees during dry spells. I’m sure they could think up something.