Aerial attack moderates fire, ground crews focus on protecting homes
FRISCO — Growing to more than 50,000 acres, the West Fork Fire Complex has darkened skies around southwestern Colorado and continues to threaten the small town of South Fork, in the San Juan foothills. Emergency contact information is consolidated on this InciWeb.org web page.
Firefighters described the fire’s behavior as almost unprecedented late in the week, as the flames raced for miles through beetle-killed spruce forests mixed with live trees dessicated by persistent drought.
Firefighters are having a hard time finding a place to make a direct attack because of the extremely rugged terrain and dangerous forest conditions, but a concerted aerial attack did help moderate the fire on its eastern flank, according to a Saturday afternoon update on InciWeb.org.
Three separate fires — the West Fork, Windy Pass and Papoose — make up the West Fork complex.
On the ground, firefighters continue to focus on protecting cabins along Highway 160, as well as South Fork, where the entire population has been evacuated.
Red flag fire warnings persisted for the fourth day in a row, leading to conditions ideal for rapid fire spread and new ignitions from flying embers. Forecasters expect 15 to 20 mph winds out of the southwest to continue, with gusts up to 35 mph along ridges, where the wind can push the fire into new areas.
As a result, officials said they expect the fire to make new runs, like the Papoose Fire, which on Friday grew quickly from 2,000 to 11,000 acres, burning near Road Canyon Reservoir, 30-Mile Campground and is threatening neighborhoods.
At least eight other fires are actively burning across Colorado, though none of the size and intensity of the West Fork complex.