Update: West Fork Complex fire hits 81,000 acres, still 0 percent contained

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Big photos, videos below.
Update: The West Fork Complex fire, not far from Pagosa Springs, continues to be the most aggressive blaze currently burning in the scorched State of Colorado.

And it's proven stubbornly resistant to the best efforts of firefighters to bring it under control.

The latest: The size of the fire is now estimated at approximately 81,000 acres.

The estimated percentage of containment? Zero.

At this writing, the most up-to-date information on the West Fork Complex fire can be found at the Archuleta County Emergency Information website.

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National Forest Service
Here are details about each of the main blazes that make up the overall conflagration: the Papoose fire, the Windy Pass fire, and the West Fork fire, which is divided into zones for the purposes of description:
Papoose Fire: Fire activity increased on the northwest flank of the fire last night about shift change. The fire has burned down into Crooked Creek, and firefighters from both shifts worked diligently to protect structures as the fire pushed into the area. The night shift resources continued to work in this area through the night and as of this morning there is no known structure loss. Today firefighters will continue to provide structure protection in the Crooked Creek area and will mop up along Highway 149.

Eastern Part of West Fork Fire: On the southeast flank, along Highway 160, aerial resources will continue to keep the fire north of the highway. On the northeast side, near Sentinel Peak, firefighters will continue to improve the dozer line that is in place to minimize the chances of the fire reaching South Fork. Near Lake Humphreys and Metroz Lake, crews will continue to provide structure protection. Along Highway 149, structure protection continues on both sides of the highway.

West Zone of West Fork Complex (Includes Western Part of West Fork and Windy Pass Fires): There was minimal fire growth in the West Zone yesterday. There were some flare-ups in pockets of unburned bug-killed spruce and continued smoldering ground fires in the heavy dead fuels. Most of this activity was interior to the existing fire perimeter. With the high pressure moving in expect smoke to linger in the valleys longer during the morning.

Western Part of West Fork Fire: The West Zone of the West Fork fire is the portion of the fire burning south of the continental divide. Yesterday there was spotty fire activity on the south flank of the fire above Borns Lake and the fire made a short run burning in bug-killed spruce up a drainage interior to the fire perimeter. Structure protection sprinklers are installed at Bruce Spruce Resort and fire fighters will be evaluating and implementing structure protection needs for additional structures on West Fork Road today. Portions of the sprinkler system at Borns Lake were run yesterday to increase humidity and fuel moisture around the Borns lake structures.

Windy Pass Fire: Activity on the Windy Pass Fire yesterday was minimal. Windy Pass fire only grew by 26 acres, going from 1,355 acres to 1,381. With the decrease in wind intensity the immediate threat to Wolf Pass Ski Area has diminished. Fire managers are looking at possibly putting in a line with retardant to check the fire spread to the east today or tomorrow.

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Rocky Mountain Type 1 IMT PIOs Facebook page
The overall acreage breakdown between the assorted fires is calculated like so:
Windy Pass: 1,381 acres

Papoose: 25,236 acres

West Fork: 54,714 acres

Remarkably, there continue to be no reports of structures damages or injuries sustained -- very good news. Meanwhile, the number of firefighters assigned to the fire keeps increasing, with the latest total at 1,187. One reason they've had such difficulty is the tricky terrain on which the flames have gained a foothold. Another is the weather, although today is being more cooperative than usual. The winds are expected to be in the five-to-fifteen mile-per-hour range, with gusts to twenty -- far more modest than in some recent days.

The chance of thunderstorms is expected to grow over the next few days. That could be a blessing if they bring rain, or a curse if they mainly generate lightning of the sort that's thought to have started the fire in the first place.

No new closures or evacuations have been issued, but Highway 160 from the chain-up area to South Fork -- the community that's most at risk of destruction -- is still closed.

Look below to see an eye-catching U.S. military video showing aerial efforts to bring the West Fork Complex fire under control. That's followed by our previous coverage.

Continue for our previous coverage of the West Fork Complex fire, including photos and videos.


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19 comments
Tom Pellegren
Tom Pellegren

I think that anyone who decides to live in or near the forests beyond 1 fire should be charged something to go towards firefighting costs.

Karen Trujillo
Karen Trujillo

The entire metro area has been hazy & smokey since the 1st fire. At times you could smell chemicals w/ the smell of wood burning.

Center Stage Plaques
Center Stage Plaques

Our hearts go out to all the people and wildlife that call these beautiful places home.

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

Gov. Hack is on CPR today, explaining how Colorado is not even seeking a statewide building code or land-use standards.  After losing over 1,200 houses and eight lives to wildfires in less than a year, it has now become possible for CPR to at least put the question as to whether we should have such standards to the Governor, but the answer is "no".  How many more homes have to burn and people die before it becomes politically possible to consider effective action to prevent the catastrophic losses we have been suffering?  Another 1,000 homes, 2,000, 3,000?  Hack followed up his "no" by describing how the bobbleheads of the Colorado Municipal League were all nodding as he advised that having a wood deck right next to your home is not a good idea.  As long as I pretend that Hack is governor of some other place, he can be quite amusing.  His timidity and blandness in the face of serious problems is very much a reflection of our collective inability to confront those problems, and his verbal penchant for constantly seeking validation from whoever he is addressing underscores his unsuitability for the job -- "Right?".

Evelyn Maria
Evelyn Maria

Staying inside more even if you can't smell the smoke the fine particulates are in the air, not good for your lungs.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

Two weeks ago, I loaned my R.V., which was sitting next to the house not in use, to a cpl who lost their home to a wildfire . We have over a dozen fires burning leaving many outside their homes . Yet, when I drive anywhere, I see countless campers and R.V.'s, sitting in driveways when they could be providing temporary homes to our neighbors in need !
Please take a moment to put yourself in their shoes . A simple ad on Craigslist is all I did and was almost immediately contacted . Does it have to be x-mas before Coloradans begin giving ???

Ashley Bjorkman
Ashley Bjorkman

My parents used to live there and I spent a year there so I know a lot of people who evacuated and some who have businesses in Creede!

Al E Cat Maes
Al E Cat Maes

I'm from around that area so I know several evacuees.

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

@Tom Pellegren I think that we should institute comprehensive statewide requirements for land-use, building materials, and setbacks for all development in and near the wildlands that mitigate the risk of fire.  Proposing a fee to subsidize firefighting is a reactionary response that does nothing to reduce the flammability of homes in the wildlands.  We have had plenty of firefighting resources to use against the catastrophic fires of the past two years, but we have lost eight lives and over 1,200 houses nonetheless.  I seem to be the only person in Colorado demanding real efforts at fire mitigation; the rest of you just want to fantasize about putting fires out.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Center Stage Plaques We second that emotion, Center Stage. Thanks for the post.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Ashley Bjorkman Our thoughts are with them. Thanks for posting, Ashley.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Al E Cat Maes Please give them our best, Al -- and thanks for the post.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@RobertChase <== supports BigGovernment REGULATION ... to protect Stupid people from themselves.

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay <== supports socializing the liabilities Colorado incurs by letting developers and individiuals put houses with cedar-shake roofs and wooden decks in the middle of piles of fuel for wildfires, has no objection to losing lives and thousands of homes to fire, even though everyone else has to pick up the pieces, sees nothing wrong with spending millions on measures that cannot address the problem.

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