Nearly an inch of rain fell last weekend on Silverton and the massive 461 Fire burning north of Durango, allowing firefighters to make headway in corralling the huge blaze that has cut off train service to Silverton since June 1.
The improved conditions allowed officials to open U.S. 550 between Durango and Silverton with no restrictions on Sunday morning.
And at 3 p.m. today (Thursday, June 21), the unprecedented closure of the San Juan National Forest, in place since June 12, will be lifted, Forest Service officials say.
BLM lands in the Durango area that closed last week will also reopen. An area around the active 416 and Burro Fires will remain closed to public entry, including the segments of the Colorado Trail from Molas Pass to the Junction Creek terminus.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better rainfall,” said Melissa Perez, public information officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
But fire officials warn that fire activity is expected to increase before being tempered by cooler conditions this weekend.
The BLM lands and the rest of the San Juan National Forest will remain in Stage 2 fire restrictions.
This allows campgrounds, roads, and trails to re-open, and operations to resume for those with permits and contracts for doing business on the public lands.
Forest officials say the weather event that southwest Colorado experienced this past weekend “was not a typical event.”
The storm brought up to 1.5 inches of rain to some local areas, which is more rain than is received during the whole month of June on average. This was unanticipated relief to the extraordinarily dry and fire prone conditions in the region. Fortunately, the rain was delivered in a steady two-day event which did not produce mud slides or debris flows.
Officials described fire activity on Wednesday as “minimal to none,” but predicted the fire will spread again as fuels dry out later this week.
On Wednesday morning, June 20, the 416 Fire was 35 percent contained and covered 34,161 acres.
Also on Wednesday morning, residents of the Falls Creek Ranch and High Meadows subdivisions were allowed to return to their homes. These areas remain under pre-evacuation status. All residents evacuated due to the 416 Fire have now been able to return to their homes and businesses. At one point more than 2,100 homes and businesses had been under evacuation orders.
All residents evacuated due to the 416 Fire have now been able to return to their homes and businesses.
One of those is Jennifer King, who has a home in the Falls Creek area but was under an evacuation order and staying in Silverton on Monday.
She fled her home on Friday after a flare up.
“I had just unhooked my trailer an hour before the evacuation notice was issued. I had three hours to get out,” King said. “Then a half our later someone came by and said ‘you’ve got to get out now!’”
Information on fire activity is being posted by Forest Service officials at the Silverton Visitors Center and in the Post Office.