New evacuations ordered for residents near 416 Fire

LA PLATA COUNTY, Colo. — New evacuations were ordered Saturday afternoon for some residents near the 416 Fire in southwestern Colorado.

The mandatory evacuation order was issued for residences in the Falls Creek Ranch and High Meadows subdivisions and for residences on the west side of La Plata County Road 203 between Trimble Lane and Cometti/Mead Lanes.

Law enforcement officials began notifying residents door to door at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

These new evacuations are in addition to about 1,300 homes that were evacuated previously.

Residences on the east side of County Road 203 east to the Animas River between Cometti/Mead/Albrecht Lanes south to Trimble Lane remain under pre-evacuation notice.

The fire was estimated at about 8,700 acres Saturday morning. It is 10 percent contained.

La Plata County officials said there are 813 people fighting the fire.

Health officials issued an air quality alert in southwestern Colorado because of heavy smoke from a wildfire. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Saturday that smoke has reached unhealthy levels in La Plata County as far south as the Colorado-New Mexico border.

An evacuation center and shelter is open 24 hours a day at Escalante Middle School at 141 Baker Lane in Durango. Evacuated residents are asked to check in at the evacuation center to receive credentials for re-entry when conditions allow the evacuation order to be lifted.

Livestock can be evacuated to the La Plata County Fairgrounds at 2500 Main Avenue. The emergency call center at (970) 385-8700 can help coordinate pick-up of livestock. Small animals are being accepted at the La Plata County Humane Society, 1111 South Camino del Rio, Durango (970) 259-2847.

Authorities issued a red flag warning Saturday afternoon due to hot and dry conditions that could create “extreme fire behavior.” The warning remained in effect until 9 p.m. and will resume from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Sunday. Residents are advised to use extreme caution with any open flame source in areas where they are permitted. Outdoor burning is strongly discouraged.

The 416 fire started June 1 in the San Juan National Forest but the cause hasn’t been determined. It comes amid a severe drought in the Four Corners area where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet.

Traffic is restricted on U.S. Highway 550 because of heavy firefighter activity. While the highway is closed between mile markers 32 to 47, law enforcement will escort vehicles through the area between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.

A type-1 incident management team took command of the fire at 6 a.m. Saturday morning. This means additional resources will be deployed to contain it.

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