West Fork Complex remains 0-percent contained

SUN photo/Terri House As afternoon winds increased, the windy Pass Fire flared Sunday and made a run up the Lane Creek drainage. It did not cross over into the Wolf Creek Ski Area. SUN photo/Terri House
As afternoon winds increased, the Windy Pass Fire flared Sunday and made a run up the Lane Creek drainage. It did not cross over into the Wolf Creek Ski Area.

On Sunday, activity on the Papoose Fire occurred primarily on the west and northwest flanks.  Firefighters made good progress evaluating and protecting structures along the northern perimeter of the fire.

On the northeast side, where the fire has burned into the floodplain, firefighters are continuing to hold it south of Colo. 149.  A spike camp has been established for the firefighters working on the Papoose Fire in order to reduce travel times.

 West Fork Fire-East Zone 

The majority of the fire activity that was visible Sunday occurred southwest of Metroz Mountain.  This area of the fire started as two fingers that have grown together on the east side.  A large island of unburned vegetation between the fingers burned on Sunday.  The smoke plume created by the burning affected local winds, reducing fire activity on the east flank of the fire.  Firefighters made good progress on evaluating and establishing protective measures for structures along Colo. 149 and U.S. 160.

West Fork Fire-West Zone

The West Zone of the West Fork fire is the portion of the fire burning south of the continental divide. The segment on the south end of the fire that made a run up the backside of Sheep Mountain yesterday turned north Sunday, burning back towards the main body of the fire reducing the threat to U.S. 160.  Firefighters did a structure protection assessment in the Bruce Spruce Campground along West Fork Road and are looking at establishing a sprinkler system to protect the structures in that area tomorrow.

 Windy Pass Fire

The Windy Pass Fire made a run up the Lane Creek drainagee.  It did not cross over into the Wolf Creek Ski Area. Firefighters have been able to hold the Windy Pass Fire within the established indirect containment lines protecting the Wolf Creek Ski Area.


Sunday was the fifth day in a row that the complex has been under a Red Flag Warning.  Wind gusts reaching 50 mph were reported on the ridgetops with gusts to 35 mph at lower elevations.  Relative humidity was reported in the teens dropping to single digits.  Another Red Flag Warning has been issued for today, Monday.

Evacuations and closures

There are multiple evacuations and pre-evacuations in effect for the fire area and vicinity.   For more information on evacuations, check www.acemergency.org.

There are multiple road and trail closures.  The primary closures are U.S. 160 from the chain-up area to South Fork, and Colo. 149 between South Fork and Creede from mile post 1 through mile post 22.

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

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.

Start Date: June 5.

Cause: Lightning.

Complex size: Adjusted to 75,150 acres.

Percent contained: 0.

Windy Pass: 987 acres.

Papoose: 19,413 acres.

West Fork: 49,862 acres.

Total Personnel: 895.

Resources include four Type 1 hand crews, 21 Type 2 hand crews, 50 engines, 10 water tenders, and overhead personnel.

Air resources include three Type 1 helicopters, two Type 2 helicopters, and four Type 3 helicopters.

Cost to date: $2.2 million.

 Health warning

Liane Jollon, of the San Juan Basin Health Department, issued a health reminder on June 20 due to the smoke from numerous wildfires affecting the air quality in southwest Colorado.

Elderly persons, young children, pregnant women and persons with pre-existing circulatory or respiratory conditions should limit outdoor activity when smoke is visible in the sky.

The following are recommendations from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) on steps to take if wildfire smoke is affecting your health:

• If you smell smoke and/or are beginning to experience symptoms, consider temporarily locating to another area as long as it is safe for you to do so.

• Seek out locations where air is filtered. For example, heading to the local mall, movie theater or recreation center can provide some temporary relief. Local health officials often can help locate places with better air quality during extended smoke episodes.

• Close windows and doors and stay indoors. However, do not close up your home tightly if it makes it dangerously warm inside.

• Only if they are filtered, run the air conditioning, the fan feature on your home heating system (with the heat turned off) or your evaporative cooler. Keep the outdoor air intake closed and be sure the filter is clean. Filtered air typically has less smoke than the air outdoors. Running these appliances if they are not filtered can make indoor smoke worse.

• If you have any HEPA room air filtration units, use them.

• In smoky air, reduce your physical activity level. Avoid exercise or other strenuous activities in heavy smoke. If smoke is simply unpleasant or mildly irritating, changing the timing of a few activities may be all that is necessary.

• Give extra attention to the things that help keep a person healthy at any time. Make healthy eating choices, drink plenty of fluid, get ample sleep, and exercise in clean air. To the extent that you can, avoid or mitigate stress by keeping in touch with friends and family, and using other methods of taking a break from worries.

• Commercially available dust masks may seem like a good idea, but they do virtually nothing to filter out the particles and gasses in smoke.

• At night smoke may move in different directions than smoke does in the day, and can be heavy—especially if the outdoor air is still. It tends to be worse near dawn.

• Close bedroom windows at night.

• To prepare for nighttime smoke, consider airing out your home during the early or middle of the afternoon when smoke tends to be more diluted. Use your best judgment. If smoke is thick during the day, follow the tips above.

For more information, see CDPHE’s web page on wildfire smoke: www.colorado.gov/airquality/wildfire.aspx

Prayer vigil

St.  Patrick’s Episcopal Church, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. will hold a prayer vigil Tuesday evening, 5-8 p.m. for firefighters and those in harm’s way. It is open to the public.