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West Fork Complex Fire, June 29: 90,806 acres

Special Message:  The Colorado Department of Transportation reopened U.S. 160 over Wolf Creek Pass this morning at 6:00 am.  If fire activity warrants, the highway could be re-closed, so travelers are urged to check road conditions at www.cotrip.org for updated road information.

Fire Information Meetings:

The following fire information meetings will be held:

Del Norte: Daily briefing at the Red Cross Shelter in Del Norte at 9 a.m.

South Fork:  Saturday June 29, at 7 p.m. at the Community Hall

Pagosa Springs:  Saturday June 29, at 1 p.m. at the Ross Aragon Community Center

Current Situation:

East Zone of the West Fork Complex (includes Papoose and Eastern Part of West Fork Fires) 

The Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team has added a swing shift to their operations.    Fourteen engines and three hand crews staffed both fires in the east zone through the night.    The infrared flight that provides us with the most current imagery of the fire perimeter was cancelled last night due to weather.

Papoose Fire:  Last night firefighters continued to provide structure protection near the Rio Grande Reservoir, Crooked Creek, and Trout Creek on the north half of the fire.  There is still no known structure loss.  Today firefighters will again focus on the areas of the fire where structures could be impacted.  They will also begin to evaluate and prepare structures east of the Papoose Fire, along Colo. 149, in the event that the fire continues to move to the east.

Eastern Part of West Fork Fire: Firefighters will continue to focus on areas where the fire is most active and structures could be impacted.  These areas include Lake Humphreys, Metroz Lake, and along Highway 149 near Elk Mountain.  Crews will work to tie together existing fuel breaks (i.e. meadows, roads, etc.) in an effort to diminish fire behavior.  East of Colo. 149, firefighters continue to evaluate and prepare structures in the event that the fire crosses the highway.  Google Earth is being used to create an application that will allow firefighters to quickly identify the location of structures in that area.

West Zone of West Fork Complex (includes Western Part of West Fork and Windy Pass Fires)

A change in wind direction and an inversion yesterday brought heavy smoke into the San Juan River Valley and Pagosa Springs area. The inversion held the smoke, and high winds and smoky conditions that persisted throughout the day.  Fire continues to burn in timber that is dead due to Spruce Beetle kill.

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

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. Structure protection continued near the Born Lake cabins.  Structure protection is still in place for Bruce Spruce Resort, which is still open, and hose lays and sprinkler system are in place and operational in the West Fork Campground that is also open.

Windy Pass Fire:  Activity on the Windy Pass Fire yesterday was minimal.  Crews worked around Lane Creek and bucket drops were done throughout the day.

Weather:  High pressure will move farther to the west allowing stronger winds from the northwest to move over the complex.  Thunderstorm chances continue across the complex with lightning, gusty winds, and rain possible.  An unstable atmosphere will continue through the middle of next week keeping the chance of thunderstorms in the forecast.

Public Health and Safety:  Smoke monitors are in place in Del Norte and Creede.   For the official Colorado Smoke Outlook visit http://www.colorado.gov/airquality/colo_advisory.aspx and http://www.colorado.gov/airquality/wildfire.aspx for further health advisory information.

Please use caution when traveling along highways 149 and 160.  Heavy fire traffic can be expected along the highways and within the communities of South Fork, Creede, and Del Norte.  Please do not stop along the roads to take pictures of the fire or firefighters as doing so could impede fire operations.

Evacuations and Closures: Yesterday, most residents of South Fork were able to return home.  Anyone west of Colo. 149 or the Rio Grande River (whichever is closest to the fire) remain under mandatory evacuation.  This includes Elk Park and the portion of Masonic Park west of the river.  All other evacuations remain in effect.  Those residents who were able to return home were reminded that if fire activity increases, they may have to re-evacuate.  Along Colo. 149, traffic is being escorted between Wagon Wheel Gap and U.S. 160.

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.

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.

Fire Statistics:

Location:  14.5 miles north/northeast of Pagosa Springs, CO

Start Date: 06/05/2013

Cause:  Lightning

Complex Size:  90,806 acres

Windy Pass: 1,411 acres

Papoose: 33,022 acres

West Fork: 56,373 acres

Percent Contained: 2 percent

Total Personnel: 1436

Resources Include: 9 Type 1 hand crews, 20 Type 2 hand crews, 109 engines,  2 dozers, 13 water tenders, and overhead personnel.

Air Resources:  7 Type 1 helicopters, 3 Type 2 helicopters, 10 Type 3 helicopters, and 2 single engine airtankers (SEATS).

Places to get information:

Website: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3436/

Twitter: @rmt1pio

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/RockyMtn.Type1.IMT.PIOs.

Information Boards:  Information is posted at the Pagosa Springs Visitor Information Center, Freemons Ranch near Creede, the Forest Service office in Creede, and at the Red Cross Shelter in Del Norte.

Photos:   http://s1286.photobucket.com/user/WestForkComplex/library/

This story was posted on June 29, 2013.