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West Fork Complex fires chronology: June 5-July 10

Acreages listed below are for the morning of the given day.

 

Wednesday, June 5:

The West Fork Fire begins west of the Continental Divide near Born’s Lake northeast of Pagosa Springs, in an area difficult to access. The cause is lightning.

Size: One-quarter acre.

 

Thursday, June 13:

A Type 3 incident commander arrives and additional resources are ordered.

The Windy Pass Fire begins from a lightning strike 12 miles northeast of Pagosa Springs, near the Windy Pass Trail.

West Fork size: 25 acres.

Windy Pass size: unknown.

 

Friday, June 14:

Smoke begins to be visible from U.S. 160 and the West Fork Trail is closed. Additional resources, including two Type 2 hand crews, two Type 2 helicopters and one Type 3 helicopter, are ordered.

Thirteen backpackers are safely evacuated from the West Fork Trail and Rainbow Hot Springs.

West Fork: 150 acres.

Windy Pass: unknown.

 

Saturday, June 15:

Helicopters begin water drops as part of an effort to keep the West Fork Fire off of private land.

An additional 20-person crew is ordered for the Windy Pass Fire. The fire grows to 35 acres by mid afternoon. Water drops are used.

More than 65 personnel are working each fire.

West Fork: 470 acres.

Windy Pass: 5-6 acres.

 

Sunday, June 16:

The two fires are now being managed as the West Fork Complex. A Type 2 National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) team is ordered.

The Falls Creek and Wolf Creek roads, Treasure Mountain Trail and Windy Pass Trail are closed.

West Fork: over 1,747 acres.

Windy Pass: 108 acres.

 

Monday, June 17:

A portion of the Continental Divide Trail is closed, as is the Lobo Overlook atop Wolf Creek Pass.

More than 200 people are assigned to the complex.

West Fork: over 2,500.

Windy Pass: 129 acres.

 

Tuesday, June 18:

The fires are less active due to cloud cover.

Complex: 3,280 acres.

 

Wednesday, June 19:

Area fire restrictions take effect.

Red Flag Warnings begin and a large smoke plume is visible. Fire activity is extreme.

Complex: 4,070.

 

Thursday, June 20:

Pre-evacuation orders are given to residents and visitors on West Fork Road and private landowners in the East Fork drainage.

A spot fire from the West Fork Fire lands in the Rio Grande National Forest and the fire is established. Areas within the RGNF are closed.

Several evacuations, including for the top of Wolf Creek Pass to the town limits of South Fork, and pre-evacuations are announced.

U.S. 160 over Wolf Creek Pass is closed.

Complex: 12,710 acres.

West Fork: 12,001 acres.

Windy Pass: 709 acres.

 

Friday, June 21:

The town of South Fork is put under mandatory evacuation. Colo. 149 between South Fork and Creede is closed.

Over 30 engines are stationed in South Fork.

The Papoose Fire grows from about 2,000 acres to more than 11,000 acres.

Complex: 29,911 acres.

West Fork: almost 29,000 acres.

Windy Pass: around 1,000 acres.

Saturday, June 22:

The Papoose Fire is now being managed by the complex.

Complex: 53,544 acres.

West Fork: 42,516 acres.

Windy Pass: 937 acres.

Papoose: more than 11,000 acres.

 

Sunday, June 23:

A Type 1 incident management team arrives on the east side of the fire.

Complex size: 70,262

West Fork: 49,862 acres.

Windy Pass: 987 acres.

Papoose: 19,413 acres.

 

Monday, June 24:

Members of the Colorado National Guard are called in for help.

Complex: 75,150 acres.

 

Tuesday, June 25:

Over 1,300 personnel are currently assigned to the fires.

This is the sixth straight day of Red Flag Warnings.

Complex: 79,182 acres.

West Fork: 54,222 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,355 acres.

Papoose: 23,605 acres.

 

Wednesday, June 26:

Weather turns more favorable, with no Red Flag Warning in place.

Complex: 81,331 acres.

West Fork: 54,714 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,381 acres.

Papoose: 25,236 acres.

 

Thursday, June 27:

A Red Flag Warning is in place for dry thunderstorms in the afternoon.

Heavy smoke moves into Pagosa Springs.

Complex: 83,004 acres.

West Fork: 55,118 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,403 acres.

Papoose: 26,483 acres.

 

Friday, June 28:

Most residents of South Fork are allowed to return home and are under a pre-evacuation notice. Residents west of Colo. 149 and the Rio Grande River remain evacuated.

Heavy smoke continues in Pagosa Springs.

Complex: 90,056 acres.

West Fork: 56,373 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,411 acres.

Papoose: 32,272 acres.

 

Saturday, June 29:

U.S. 160 over Wolf Creek Pass and Colo. 149 reopen.

Rain falls in the area.

Complex: 90,806 acres.

West Fork: 56,373 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,411 acres.

Papoose: 33,022 acres.

Containment: 2 percent.

 

Sunday, June 30:

Residents of Wagon Wheel Gap are moved from evacuation to a pre-evacuation notice.

Rain falls in the area.

Complex: 92,176 acres.

West Fork: 56,488 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,416 acres.

Papoose: 34,272 acres.

Containment: 2 percent.

 

Monday, July 1:

Evacuations for several communities in Mineral County are lifted and pre-evacuation notices put in place.

Complex: 93,776 acres.

West Fork: 56,517 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,417 acres.

Papoose: 35,842 acres.

Containment: 4 percent.

 

Tuesday, July 2:

The San Juan National Forest and several other agencies enter into Stage 2 fire restrictions.

Complex: 94,476 acres.

West Fork: 56,549 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,417 acres.

Papoose: 36,510 acres.

Containment: 7 percent.

 

Wednesday, July 3:

The Papoose fire grows more than 12,000 acres this day.

Complex: 97,823 acres.

West Fork: 59,895 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,417 acres.

Papoose: 36,511 acres.

Containment: 7 percent.

 

Thursday, July 4:

The Type 2 Central Coast Incident Management Team takes control of the West Zone of the complex.

Complex: 106,637 acres.

West Fork: 56,568 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,417 acres.

Papoose: 48,652 acres.

Containment: 16 percent.

 

Friday, July 5:

Firefighters contain and control two small fires in southern Archuleta County.

Complex: 110,028 acres.

West Fork: 59,959 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,417 acres.

Papoose: 48,652 acres.

Containment: 20 percent.

 

Saturday, July 6:

A Type 1 Eastern Great Basin Incident Management Team assumes command of the East Zone.

Complex: 110,028 acres.

West Fork: 59,959 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,417 acres.

Papoose: 48,652 acres.

Containment: 25 percent.

 

Sunday, July 7:

Significant amounts of moisture fall on some areas of the West Fork Fire.

It is confirmed that a small pump house was previously destroyed by the fire. It is the only known structure loss.

Firefighters work to contain the 20-acre Cat Fire, located near County Road 500.

Complex: 110,028 acres.

West Fork: 59,959 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,417 acres.

Papoose: 48,652 acres.

Containment: 25 percent.

 

Monday, July 8:

Several communities are removed from mandatory evacuation, while several remain evacuated.

Complex Size: 110,405 acres.

West Fork: 59,932 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,417 acres.

Papoose: 49,056 acres.

Containment: 19 percent.

 

Tuesday, July 9:

Complex: 109,049 acres.

West Fork: 58,576 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,417 acres.

Papoose: 49,056 acres.

Containment: 19 percent.

Wednesday, July 10:

Archuleta County and the Town of Pagosa Springs enter into Stage 2 fire restrictions.

Additional evacuations are lifted.

Complex: 109,100 acres.

West Fork: 58,576 acres.

Windy Pass: 1,417 acres .

Papoose: 49,107 acres.

Containment: 19 percent.

This story was posted on July 11, 2013.