Fires close Divide, Colorado trails

(4:30 p.m. Wednesday) – Emergency closures in place due to the West Fork Complex currently affect long sections of the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, the Forest Service said.

Trail sections are closed to all public entry between San Luis Pass north of Creede, Stony Pass east of Silverton and Elwood Pass northeast of Pagosa Springs.

In all, about 50 miles of the Colorado Trail on the Rio Grande National Forest and about 150 miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail on both the Rio Grande and San Juan national forests are closed to public access.

For more information, contact the Rio Grande National Forest at (970) 852-5941.

b b b

DEL NORTE (10:15 a.m. Wednesday) – Fire officials are trying to determine the best way to take advantage of calm conditions today at the West Fork Complex, which has reached 81,331 acres.

U.S. Highway 160 over Wolf Creek Pass remains closed for the seventh consecutive day despite some talk from fire officials Tuesday that it might be opened in a limited capacity to the public.

Businesses on both sides of the pass are pushing to get the pass open, but fire officials and county sheriffs have to balance those concerns with public safety, said Pete Blume, a West Fork Complex incident commander.

The West Fork Complex is comprised of three fires. The West Fork Fire, started by lightning June 5, is the biggest at 54,714 acres. The goal for that fire was to improve a bulldozer line about 1½ miles from South Fork. It is a single blade about 10 to 12 feet wide.

Fire officials can’t send firefighters to the West Fork Fire line because of rugged terrain and fire danger. They are discussing whether to set a controlled burn from Highway 160 toward the fire, Blume said at a briefing this morning.

But this is tricky. If the controlled burn gets too hot, it could get out of control.

“We don’t want the fire hitting the highway hard because the fire will go over it,” Blume said.

The Papoose Fire, at 25,236 acres this morning, is causing concern because of its potential to harm waterways and reservoirs with ash from the fire.

Firefighters hope today to take advantage of light winds to cool the perimeters of the Papoose Fire, particularly where it’s close to homes, Blume said.

The Windy Pass Fire, just over the Continental Divide from Wolf Creek Pass Ski Area, is 1,381 acres.

There is no containment on any of the fires.