VALLEY — Firefighters have no July 4th holiday, as they continue battling the West Fork Fire Complex.
Gusty winds and lightning from thunderstorms were the main weather concern on Wednesday. A gradual change toward conditions favoring better chances for wetting rains will occur into the coming weekend.
The strategies for operations on the fire include continuing protection for structures and high value resources, as well as confining the fire to areas where it will not pose an issue for the local area during the remainder of the summer.
The West Zone of the West Fork fire is the portion of the fire burning south of the continental divide. Structure protection is still in place for the Wolf Creek Ski Area, Borns Lake Cabins, and Bruce Spruce Resort. The West Fork Campground is open. The West Fork Wildfire grew by seven acres on Tuesday.
Windy Pass Fire grew one acre Tuesday, creeping on the western flank of the fire where heat remains. Firefighters continue to patrol and monitor the fire area.
Falling trees in some areas of the Papoose Fire are creating an unsafe situation and firefighters are avoiding those areas. Fire intensity is expected to increase in the next few days, especially in areas where spruce trees have been damaged by beetles. In areas where structure protection has been completed, firefighters will test pumps and sprinklers systems to ensure they are still operational in the event the systems will need to be utilized. Firefighters will continue to confine the northern part of the fire, from the Rio Grande Reservoir around the most northern point, and then south along Highway 149. Some burn out will take place along meadows, allowing firefighters the opportunity to even out the fire line and achieve confinement.
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. Reduced speed is posted on Highway 160. Please do not stop along the roads to take pictures of the fire or firefighters as doing so could impede fire operations.
On July 3 the Rio Grande National Forest issued an emergency closure.The area closure includes National Forest System lands on all or parts of the following areas: From Bonito Pass at the junction of FSR 390 at the Continental Divide, north along FSR390 to the junction with US Hwy 160, northeast along US Hwy 160 to its junction with CO State Hwy 149,then onto CO State Hwy 149, across the Rio Grande River, up to the junction of CO State Hwy 149and County Road 15, then east along County Road 15 to its junction with FSR 610 (Alder Creek),then north along FSR 610 to the junction with the West Alder Trail number 798, then north to the junction with FSR 600, then west along FSR 600 to its junction with CO State Hwy 149, then west on CO State Hwy 149 to the County Road 550 (Deep Creek Road), then west on County Road 550Road to CO State Hwy 149, then west on CO State Hwy 149 to west to the its junction with FSR 523,the closure boundary then follows the Rio Grande River to its junction with FSR 522, then north on FSR 522 to its junction with Co State Hwy 149, then north west on CO State Hwy 149 to Rio Grande National Forest Boundary, then west along the Forest Boundary to its junction with Pole Creek Trail number 787, then south to its junction with FSR 520, then south on FSR 520 to its junction with FSR 506,then south on FSR 506 to the Forest Boundary, then east following the boundary between the Rio Grande NF and the San Juan NF to its junction with FSR 390 at Bonito Pass.
All roads and trails that are within this area closure are closed due to the West Fork Complex Fire. All roads and trails that make up the boundary of this area closure are open except for Pass Creek Road FSR 390.
The areas of the Weminuche Wilderness that fall inside the Divide and Conejos Districts of the Rio Grande National Forest and the Pagosa District of the San Juan National Forest remain closed until further notice, due to the West Fork fire complex.
Fire Statistics as of July 3:
Location: 14.5 miles north/northeast of Pagosa Springs, CO Start Date: 06/05/2013
Complex Size: 97,823 acres Percent Contained: 7 percent
Windy Pass: 1,417 acres Cause: Lightning
Papoose: 36,511 acres Total Personnel: 1,369
West Fork: 59,895 acres
Resources Include: 7 Type 1 hand crews, 17 Type 2 hand crews, 73 engines, 4 dozers, 12 water tenders, and overhead personnel
Air Resources: 4 Type 1 helicopters, 2 Type 2 helicopters, and 4 Type 3 helicopters.
Places to get information:
Information Boards: Information is posted at the Pagosa Springs Visitor Information Center, Freemon's Ranch near Creede, the Forest Service office in Creede, and at the Del Norte High School.