Fighting the 416 fire reaches cost of $10M
T he 416 fire in southwestern Colorado, which has burned 27,420 acres since June 1, has so far cost $10 million to suppress.
The fire, which is 15 percent contained and burning north of Durango in the San Juan National Forest, has not burned any structures, nor has it injured anyone, fire officials said Wednesday. No deaths have been reported. More than 1,000 firefighters were battling the blaze Wednesday. Some of the more than 2,000 residential evacuees from the fire were allowed home Wednesday, including residents from the Tamarron, Glacier Club & Rockwood areas. With fire conditions already at historically dangerous levels in southwest Colorado, firefighters were keeping their eyes on the skies. The forecast called for a lightning storm, which could spark new fires. Also forecast were strong winds, which could push the fire into neighborhoods north of Durango. “It’s not good news,” said Shawn Dawden, spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.
A red flag watch is in place as a storm approaches the southwest mountains. The storm is expected to include dangerous cloud-tomountain lightning strikes and winds that could reach 40 mph, Dawden said.
“Weather is going to continue to play a role over the next few days, continue to influence some of our decisions and the fire behavior,” said Jamie Knight, a 416 fire spokeswoman. “That’s the big picture story right now — firefighters making challenging decisions about tactics and strategies,” in part, based on upcoming weather.
Over the last 24 hours, the voracious 416 wildfire consumed another 4,042 acres of mostly forest lands west of U.S. Highway 550, Dawden said Wednesday morning. The fire is 15 percent contained.
“I’m happy to say that we have not had any houses burned or people hurt,” Dawden said.
Previously evacuated residents in the Rockwood, Tamarron and Glacier Club subdivisions were allowed to return to their homes Wednesday afternoon. They must have “RapidTag” credentials with them when they return. The highway closed at 6 p.m. Those residents will remain under a pre-evacuation notice.
The most active part of the fire is in the southwest corner where the blaze is approaching neighborhoods, he said.
Currently, 1,029 firefighters, eight helicopters and several airplanes are battling the wildfire, Dawden said.
Dawden said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The drought-driven wildfire has closed the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado for the first time in its 113-year history. The general public is prohibited from entering the 1.8 million-acre forest that stretches across nine counties. The closure comes at the start of the area’s busy summer season, which attracts visitors and tourists from around the world.
Also, firefighters aggressively battled the Buffalo wildfire through the night Tuesday, preventing it from spreading beyond the 91 acres it consumed two miles west of Silverthorne.
So far, no one has been injured and no homes have been destroyed.
Colorado State Patrol Trooper Ben Stuever talks to homeowner Jim Siepiela before allowing him to drive through the road closure on U.S. 550 in Hermosa on Wednesday.