More than 850 homes were evacuated Sunday as the 416 Fire burning north of Durango nearly doubled in size overnight, La Plata County officials said in their latest update, as firefighters continue to attack the blaze in southwest Colorado.
A mandatory evacuation order was issued Sunday for homes in Purgatory/Durango Mountain Resort, Lake Purgatory, Silver Pick Lodge, Cascade Village, Mill Creek, as well as homes on both sides of U.S. Highway between mile markers 46.5 to 53.1. At least 859 homes are affected by the new evacuations.
U.S. Highway 550 closed at approximately 9:30 a.m. Sunday and will remain closed indefinitely, officials said. The highway is closed at mile marker 32 on the south end at Cometti/Mead Lane and at mile marker 64 on the north side, at the top of Molas Pass.
County Road 250 north from Baker's Bridge is closed. County Road 203 is closed north of Trimble Lane.
Officials said evacuees will be escorted through the closure zone, adding there was also a closure point at Silverton.
Total number of evacuees grows to more than 2,000
On Saturday, evacuation orders were issued for homes in the Falls Creek Ranch and High Meadows subdivisions and for homes on the west side of County Road 203 between Trimble Lane and Cometti/Mead Lanes. On Friday, residences were evacuated on the east and west sides of U.S. Highway 550 from Electra Lake Drive to Hermosa Cliffs Road and the north end of Two Dogs Trail.
In addition to the evacuation orders issued Friday and Saturday, residents from Mead/Cometti/Albrecht Lane west from the Animas River north to Electra Lake Road are under mandatory evacuation orders. The total number of homes evacuated because of the 416 Fire is 2,156.
Pre-evacuation notices are in place for homes and businesses on the east side of County Road 203 east to the Animas River between Cometti/Mead/Albrecht Lanes south to Trimble Lane as are the Celadon, Red Tail Mountain Ranch, Elkhorn Mountain, neighborhoods and subdivisions, officials said Sunday.
Additionally, pre-evacuation notices have been made for residences from Mead/Cometti/Albrecht Lane south to Trimble Lane west from the Animas River, Dalton Ranch north of Trimble Lane, Durango Regency, Red Rock Range, Estancia, and the Cottonwoods neighborhoods and subdivisions.
The total number of residences remaining under pre-evacuation notice is 373.
For up-to-date information on evacuations or pre-evacuations, you are asked to call the La Plata County Emergency Operations Center at (970) 385-8700. You can also visit www.co.laplata.co.us.
An evacuation center and shelter is open 24 hours a day at Escalante Middle School, 141 Baker Lane, in Durango. Evacuated residents are asked to check in at the evacuation center to receive credentials for re-entry when conditions allow the evacuation order to be lifted.
Livestock can be evacuated to the La Plata County Fairgrounds at 2500 Main Avenue. The emergency call center at (970) 385-8700 can help coordinate pick-up of livestock. Small animals are being accepted at the La Plata County Humane Society, 1111 South Camino del Rio, Durango (970) 259-2847.
Sunday is expected to be another tough weather day for firefighters battling the 416 Fire burning about ten miles north of Durango as conditions are expected to be dry and windy, with potential gusts up to 35 mph.
Todd Pechota of the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team, said the combination of weather and fuel conditions is creating significant potential for fire intensity and growth Sunday.
The fire grew overnight on the west and northwest sides, an area that is National Forest land and not anywhere near homes.
The rapidly-growing wildfire has now burned 16,766 acres and is still only 10 percent contained, La Plata County officials said Sunday.
The fire is burning on the west side of U.S. Highway 550 on some private land and on the San Juan National Forest. The fire is burning in grass, brush, and timber.
Fire officials say no structures have been lost, but large-scale evacuations are still in place.
Fire officials say terrain is rough and inaccessible in many areas making the fight that much more difficult for crews on the ground.
More than 800 firefighters are now battling the 416 Fire and are being assisted by nine Type 1 hand crews, 11 Type 2 hand crews, 44 engines, five dozers, four water tenders and four Type 1, two Type 2 and two Type 3 helicopters.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.