Images from the West Fork Complex Fire
DEL NORTE — Before they can fully attack, they must try to predict Mother Nature’s intentions.
Del Norte-based Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team PIO Laura McConnell reported on Saturday afternoon the flame pushing winds combined with the readily available fuel source brought the Papoose Fire into the West Fork Fire Complex, forcing response units to continue to evaluate their fighting techniques.
“Right now we have to go slow to go fast,” McConnell said about the type one team taking over management control. “We want to throw everything we have at this. We don’t want to lose houses.”
Reports stated the fire was within two to three miles of the Town of South Fork on Saturday, and still posed a realistic threat. Evacuations now include Communities of Cotton Cove, Big River and Wagon Wheel Gap.
The West Fork Complex consists of three wildfires, West Fork, Windy Pass and Papoose, which are burning on the San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests in southwest Colorado, according to incident reports. All fires are burning in steep, rugged terrain with large amounts of beetle-killed spruce, making it difficult and unsafe for firefighters to mount a direct attack.
A red flag warning has been issued for today, according to the reports. This is the fourth day in a row where conditions are ideal for rapid fire spread and for the chances of any ignition source starting new fires. Winds that have been pushing the fires will continue from the southwest at 15 to 20 mph with gusts to 35 mph wind gusts up to 50 mph on exposed ridges.
The fires are again expected to make significant runs. The size for the West Fork Fire Complex is roughly 54,500acres. The West Fork has claimed 41,579 acres, the Papoose 11,028 acres and Windy Pass 937 acres as of Saturday afternoon.
McConnell said the Valley should anticipate seeing an influx of responders, and that doesn’t directly correlate to an increase in fire activity.
“It is the complexity,” McConnell said. “Fire is a lot like a toddler. It has to be cared for. It has to have something to eat and somewhere to lay down, but it can have a tantrum.”
West Fork Fire
Fire behavior yesterday on the east flank of the West Fork fire was moderated by the extensive use of air tankers. As of this morning the fire was still southwest of South Fork about seven miles. The town of South Fork is under evacuation. Most of the fire activity yesterday was a result of the two heads of the fire burning together. This pulled the eastern flank of the fire toward the north. Structure protection will continue along the Highway 160 corridor. Firefighters were able to hold the fire from spreading to the south. Additional Resources have been assigned to the West Fork Fire including two strike teams. Aviation units will be available based on national need and availability.
The Papoose Fire, southwest of Creede, made a significant run to the north yesterday afternoon going from approximately 2,000 acres to more than 11,000 acres. It is burning near the Road Canyon Reservoir, 30-Mile Campground and threatening subdivisions in the area. An Incident Command Post has been set up on Highway 149 and additional resources including air tankers, hotshot crews, and a strike team of engines are being sent to Papoose to assist with structure protection.
Windy Pass Fire
The Windy Pass Fire, which is burning in an area with less dense vegetation than the other two fires, grew only slightly yesterday. Firefighters have been able to hold the Windy Pass Fire within the established indirect containment lines and there has been no damage to the Wolf Pass Ski area. Structure protection is still in place.
West Fork Fire Complex Information
Highway 160 is closed to traffic between the town of South Fork and Treasure Falls.
Highway 149 is closed from South Fork to Creede from milepost 1 through milepost 22
Major smoke impacts to Highway 160 and communities to the north and east of the fire.
West Fork Fire (NOT West Fork Complex Fire Colorado - that is NOT an official source)
Wildfire maps and updates
Register cell phones for San Luis Valley emergency updates
CDPHE Special Wildfire Air Quality Information: 303-692-2000 #westforkfire #cofire
Del Norte High School
The official site for the evacuee shelter is Del Norte High School.
All resources from the Red Cross are being focused on that location.
There is still plenty of room at the high school with beds, food (three meals a day) and toiletries. Counseling and nursing services are on-site. At this time, all food should be coordinated through the Del Norte High School Shelter. Red Cross can only service the Del Norte location and cannot offer personnel or services at any other site.
Ski Hi Park
Ski Hi Park is hosting many of the evacuees in their RV’s. There is room for more evacuees, but this is just a temporary RV location.
ASU Residence Halls
People can check in at the Coronado Hall front desk for housing assistance. If there are any questions regarding housing, please call Coronado Hall at 587-7542.
A collection point has been established at Coronado Hall front desk to help with the needs of the evacuees. Items needed include toiletry items, water, snacks, blankets, etc. Any donation will be appreciated.
Alamosa School District
Ortega Middle School is available to anyone in need. Please contact Central Office 719-587-1600 or Charlie Jackson directly 719-588-2093.
The Alamosa School District is opening Ortega Middle School, located at 401 Victoria Avenue, Alamosa, for anyone in need to stay, shower and find relief from the West Fork Fire. Please contact 588-2093 for details.
Rooms are available. Call 719-641-4489.
Sand Dunes Swimming Pool
RV and camping available. Call 719- 378-2807.
South Fork mail
The Postal Service has relocated all South Fork mail operations to the Del Norte Post Office, approximately 14 miles to the east. The office is located at 590 Columbia and the hours of operation are from M- F, 9-430 and Sat. 9-12. The phone number is (719) 657-3155. All mail from South Fork will be held at this office until further notice. Customers are asked to bring a photo identification to receive their mail. This impacts 1,600 mail customers.
Power tuned off in Area of South Fork
Power has been turned off in the following areas near South Fork:
All of Wolf Creek Pass from the east, including the Ski Area
Elk Creek Ranch
This was done to aid mitigation efforts now and fire fighting efforts when the fire arrives.