Growing 416 wildfire near Durango ‘going to get worse before it gets better’ |

Growing 416 wildfire near Durango ‘going to get worse before it gets better’

Firefighters engaged in active firefighting last night on the south side of the 416 fire. No structures were damaged or lost, and no firefighters were injured. (Nic Wall/Division A)

DURANGO — Sunday morning’s flyover of the 416 fire north of Durango brought news that had been feared but expected given the tinderbox weather conditions: The blaze nearly doubled in 24 hours and has now burned 16,766 acres.

The fast-growing fire prompted a raft of new mandatory evacuation orders Sunday affecting 675 homes, including some at Purgatory Resort, signaling that fire officials expect the fire to spread north and east.

Tourism impacts

Purgatory Resort has suspended all operations after homes in the area were evacuated.

• Over 2,800 square miles of San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado will be closed to prevent the possibility of an abandoned campfire or spark starting another catastrophic wildfire in exceptional drought conditions.

• The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has stopped running because of the fire. The historic scenic railroad popular with tourists is considering offering limited service later in the month with locomotives powered by diesel rather than its typical coal-fired engines, which can throw sparks.

Residents of a total of 2,156 homes have been ordered to evacuate as of Sunday afternoon, La Plata County spokeswoman Megan Graham told The Durango Herald.

Incident commander Todd Pechota told evacuated residents Saturday that the situation is “going to get worse before it gets better,” the Herald reported.

No homes have been lost to the fire, which is 10 percent contained.

The blaze started June 1 in the San Juan National Forest, and the cause has not been determined. It comes amid a severe drought in the Four Corners area where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet.

The fire is the largest of several burning in Colorado, including another fire that broke out nearby Friday. Firefighters were able to respond quickly to another fire that started Saturday near Wolcott. Authorities there are asking for the public’s help looking for three men seen leaving the area where it started.

Fire officials have been expecting a busy wildfire season after a dry winter, possibly the worst since 2012-13, when the Black Forest Fire in El Paso County destroyed nearly 500 homes, the most in state history.

The Denver Post contributed to this report. Read the full story here.

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