LA PLATA COUNTY, Colo. – The 416 Fire burning in southwestern Colorado is expected to reach Hermosa Creek overnight, San Juan National Forest officials said, as La Plata County officials warned that mandatory evacuations would begin early Thursday morning for the Hermosa area.
La Plata County officials said through a Facebook update Wednesday evening that a mandatory evacuation would begin at 6 a.m. for homes in the pre-evacuated Hermosa area north from Cometti/Mead Lane to the intersection of County Road 250C and U.S. Highway 550.
Officials said residents could stay in their homes Wednesday night, but will have to leave Thursday morning. Law enforcement will be knocking door-to-door starting at 6 a.m. A CodeRED notification has also been sent to residents, officials said. Area residents who want to sign up for emergency notifications and evacuation notices can do so by clicking here.
U.S. Highway 550 north will remain closed Thursday until evacuations are complete, La Plata County officials also said, adding the southern road block for the highway closure area will move to the 32.2 mile marker.
Warmer, drier and windier conditions to continue Thursday
Severe burning conditions are expected as weather patterns for Wednesday evening into Thursday are forecast to be slightly warmer, drier and windier in the area.
La Plata County officials warned residents in the Hermosa area that they could potentially see more smoke and air quality could become more of an issue. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recommended that unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors because of decreasing air quality in the area.
Firefighters struggle to get the blaze under control
Fire officials said Wednesday morning that the fire had grown 4,015 acres in size, an increase of more than 1,000 acres from the previous update.
Containment has remained at 10 percent for several days. Nearly 600 firefighters are currently working on the fire, which is located about 10 miles north of Durango.
Firefighters said gusty winds, high temperatures and low humidity contributed to the fire’s growth on Tuesday. Officials expect conditions to be similar Wednesday and even worse on Thursday.
All of La Plata County is experiencing “exceptional drought” – the most severe category handed out by the U.S. Drought Monitor – and is eligible for federal assistance because of the classification.
The fire has prompted evacuations for about 800 homes and pre-evacuation notices for more than 1,000 people and on Wednesday, officials also closed several nearby campgrounds. Haviland Lake Campground, Chris Park Group Campground, Lower Hermosa Campground and Sig Creek Campground all are closed due to the fire.
A community meeting for those affected by the fire was held in Silverton. If you missed the meeting or have questions, you are asked to visit the La Plata County Facebok page or call the information line at (970) 247-487 for more details.