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416 Fire forces new evacuations, could soon reach homes

HERMOSA, Colo. -- The 416 Fire burning 10 miles north of Durango in southwest Colorado has surpassed 5,100 acres and could reach residences as soon as Thursday night, fire officials said.

The fire was active -- especially on the northern and southern flanks -- on Wednesday, aided by above-average temperatures, and windy and dry conditions.

One spot fire outside the fire line was put out on Wednesday. The fire reached the Hermosa Campground on Thursday morning.

The fire grew by nearly 1,000 acres and as of 2 a.m. Thursday, it had burned 5,103 acres near the community of Hermosa. Containment remains at 10 percent.

The fire, which started Friday, is being fought by 617 firefighters. Because the fire is so complex, the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Type 1 Team will take command at 6 a.m. Saturday.

La Plata County officials issued new evacuation orders for the Hermosa area that went into effect at 6 a.m. Thursday.

Nearly 500 residences are under a mandatory evacuation order near Hermosa north from Cometti/Mead Lane to the intersection of County Road 250C and U.S. Highway 550.

A pre-evacuation notice was issued to 751 residences on Thursday for homes from Mead/Cometti/Albrecht Lane south to Trimble Lane west of the Animas River.

The area includes Falls Creek Ranch, Hidden Meadows, Dalton Ranch north of Trimble Lane, Durango Regency, Red Rock Range and Estancia.

In addition to Thursday's evacuation orders, homes from Baker's Bridge at County Road 250 north to Electra Lake Road are also under a mandatory evacuation. About 825 structures are included in that order.

Pre-evacuation orders are also in place for residences and businesses from Electra Lake Road north to Meadow View Drive, officials said.

This area includes nearly 1,400 structures in La Plata and San Juan counties and includes the following areas and subdivisions: Purgatory, Durango Mountain Resort, Cascade Village, Celadon, Red Tail Mountain Ranch, Elkhorn Mountain, Pine Acres, Animas Village and residences on Electra Lake Road.

On Wednesday, a pre-evacuation notice was issued for 34 residences in San Juan County north of Cascade Village, including Cascade Creek Summer Homes, Mill Creek Lodge Estates and all properties between mile markers 50 and 54 on Highway 550.

Highway 550 was closed Thursday morning while evacuations were completed. Authorities said the highway reopened about noon and would close again at 6 p.m.

The highway is closed at mile marker 32.2. County Road 203 is closed north of Mead/Cometti/Albrecht Lane.

Authorities expect Highway 550 will reopen from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Friday, with law enforcement pilot vehicles escorting traffic.

Officials said Thursday morning the fire could reach residences in 12 to 36 hours.

Firefighters will defend homes by using prepositioned sprinkler systems, hose lays, engines, hand crews, backfiring and air support.

Fire crews have found locations on the north flank of the fire to build fire lines to try to slow the growth.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

An evacuation center and shelter is open at Escalante Middle School in Durango.

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