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Massive Wildfire Threatens to Torch Colorado Town

Posted by feww on June 24, 2013

West Fork Fire Complex not likely to be contained anytime soon

The entire tourist town of South Fork has been evacuated, as a massive complex of three wildfires threatens to torch the southwestern Colorado resort.

The fire exploded to more than doubled the size over the weekend, consuming an estimated 77,000 acres (120 sq miles) by Sunday night, authorities said.

Multiple evacuations and pre-evacuations are in effect for the fire area and vicinity, including 400 permanent residents in South Fork and an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 tourists.

The massive fire has forced the authorities to close multiple roads and trails. The primary closures are Highway 160 from the chain-up area to South Fork, and Highway 149 between South Fork and Creede from mile post 1 through milepost 22, Inciweb said.

The West Fork Complex consists of three wildfires, West Fork, Windy Pass, and Papoose, that are burning on the San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests in southwest Colorado. The fires were combined into a complex on Sunday, June 16.

Fire Summary

  • Incident Type: Wildfire
    Cause: Lightning
  • Complex Size: 76,262 acres  [>77,000 acres as of posting.]
  • Percent Contained: 0%
  • Date of Origin: Wednesday June 05th, 2013 approx. 12:30 PM
  • Location 14.5 mi NE of Pagosa Springs
  • Growth Potential: High
  • Terrain Difficulty: Extreme [the fires are burning in steep, rugged terrain with large amounts of beetle-killed spruce]
  • Wind Conditions: 15-25mph; G55 mph SW
  • Temperature: 75 degrees
  • Humidity: 11%
  • Total Personnel: 895 – More arriving

The Fires

  • Windy Pass Fire: ~1,000 acres
  • Papoose Fire : ~21,000 acres
  • West Fork Fire: ~54,000 acres

WFC SWColo Fire Map
A Map of West Fork Fire Complex Consisting of 
Windy Pass, Papoose and West Fork Fires

Other Info

  • Fuels Involved:  Timber with heavy dead standing bug kill
  • Fire Behavior:  Extreme fire behavior observed at the time of submission of this report due to wind and slope aligned crown fire and long range spotting up to 3/4 mile in stands of dead timber. The same is expected in tomorrow’s behavior. Red Flag Warning in effect.

Significant Events

  • Very active fire behavior. Values at risk are being assessed, evacuations and closures are being evaluated. The long range spotting from yesterday’s plume dominated fire behavior resulted in significant growth north and east of the fire.
  • The evacuation of South Fork could last up  to seven days, said the Incident Commande.
  • This is the sixth consecutive day that the complex has remained under a Red Flag Warning.

Colorado Wildfires

At least a dozen significant wildfires are currently active in Colorado. The fires have consumed an estimated 200 square miles.

US weather hazmap 24jun13
US Weather Hazards Map for June 24, 2013 Showing Red Flag Warnings, Excessive Heat Warnings and Fire Weather Watches across Western United States. Source: NWS

West Fork Complex Fire threatens Colorado town

West Fork Complex wildfire update 

Black Forest Fire – Update 

Black Forest Fire in the El Paso County:  The fire near Colorado Springs burned 14,280 acres, destroying at least 511 homes and damaging 28 others. The fire started on June 11 and was declared 100 percent contained on June 20.

National High and Low Temperature (for the contiguous United States) -
NWS Weather Prediction Center, College Park, MD -
Issued 8 am EDT Monday, June 24, 2013

High Temperature for Sunday, June 23, 2013: 
110 degrees (43.3ºC) at Death Valley, CA

Low Temperature for Monday, June 24, 2013:
32 degrees (0ºC) at Lake Yellowstone, WY
32 degrees at West Yellowstone, MT

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