West Fork Fire spotting over Continental Divide, closes Wolf Creek Pass and prompts evacuations

Evacuations ordered along Wolf Creek Pass

PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. - The West Fork Fire Complex began spotting over the Continental Divide on Thursday, prompting the Colorado Dept. of Highways to close U.S. Highway 160 over Wolf Creek Pass.

New mandatory evacuations were issued Thursday evening. The evacuated area stretches from the top of Wolf Creek Pass along Highway 160 to the city limits of South Fork.

The West Fork Fire was moving into the Rio Grande National Forest Thursday afternoon. The Windy Pass Fire had reached within a quarter-mile of the Wolf Creek Ski Area on Wednesday.  Firefighters are attempting to hold both fires to the western side of the Continental Divide in the San Juan National Forest.

The U.S. Forest Service closed the Big Meadows Campground on the Rio Grand Forest side of Wolf Creek Pass in the vicinity of the spot fire. The Tucker Ponds Campground was also closed. 

Spotting is a fire behavior where sparks or embers are carried up by the wind and fall into other downwind fuels to ignite additional fires beyond the zone of direct ignition by the main fire.

An initial attack crew from the Rio Grande National Forest was sent to battle the spot fire at 11 a.m. today, according to Pam Wilson, a spokeswoman with the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center.

On Thursday  the West Fork Fire, burning primarily in the Weminuche Wilderness went from 3,879 acres to 17,000 acres.

The nearby Windy Pass Fire  also jumped in size, growing to 1,000 acres Thursday.

The Mineral County Sheriff’s Office issued pre-evacuation orders for residents and visitors on the West Fork Road and East Fork drainage. East Fork Campground remains open, but the road beyond is closed.

The West Fork Fire was started by lightning on June 5.  The Windy Pass Fire was started by lightning on June 13.


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