West Fork Complex fires reach 106,637 acres, increasing in intensity

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Papoose Fire (Photo: Colorado State Patrol, Alamosa)

Papoose Fire (Photo: Colorado State Patrol, Alamosa)

PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. — While other parts of the state were anticipating the Fourth of the July fireworks, residents in southern Colorado were praying for rain as the West Fork Complex fires continued to rage, reaching over 100,000 acres.

According to an update from Incident Command Thursday morning, the biggest of the three fires, the Papoose Fire, increased in activity on Wednesday.

Smoke and ash from the fire, part of a three-fire system that has now charred 106,637 acres in the region, was visible from nearby Pagosa Springs for the first time since the fire was sparked by a lightning strike almost a month ago.

Fire crews said that falling trees in some areas of the Papoose Fire continued to create an unsafe situation, and firefighters were being forced to avoid those areas.

As of Thursday morning, the entire three-fire system, which includes the West Fork and Windy Pass fires, was 16 percent contained. The fires are burning between the cities of Creede, South Fork and Pagosa Springs.

Thankfully, none of the fires were a threat to any structures as of Thursday morning, according to Incident Command. But considered most of the blazes are being fueled by beetle-killed spruce trees, the system of fires has the potential to expand.

The West Fork Fire is the nearest to homes of the three burning in the area, and crews indicated fire line construction will continue to take place on Thursday near the Elk Mountain neighborhood, the Wolf Creek Ski Area, the Borns Lake Cabins and the Bruce Spruce Resorts.

The Windy Pass Fire is the smallest of the three, and grew just one acre on Wednesday, with firefighters doing little more than continuing to monitor the area.

Isolated thunderstorms are in the forecast for the fire area on Thursday, with winds from the northwest. Increased moisture will slightly improve chances for wetting rains over the course of the day. Monsoonal moisture is expected to creep into the forecast by the end of the week.

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