DISCUSSION: On June 1, 2018, a fire was started in the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado about 100 miles from the Four Corners, the intersection of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The fire which is named the “416 Fire” is approaching the end of its third week of burning with about 37% containment and has burnt over 35,000 acres in the San Juan National Forest. The fire has also sparked a second fire called the “Burro Fire” about 5 to 10 miles to the west which has burnt over 3,000 acres with 53% containment. The cause of the 416 Fire has not been determined although it started on the railroad tracks in the National Forest.
Weather conditions have been favoring the spread of the fire since the onset. Afternoon temperatures have predominantly hovered from the mid-80s to the low-90s throughout much of the fire with humidity down into the single digits during the day and only up to 50% during the overnight hours. In addition, there has been a dominant westerly and southwesterly wind especially in the afternoon hours. This flow is bringing dry air uphill which helps spread the fire with a wind shift at night to a northerly wind. However, there was a small upper level trough that brought moisture to the area on the 16th and 17th of June which brought about 0.80 inches of rain to the fire zone but helped reduce the fire within its footprint. The National Weather Service is forecasting for more temperatures in the upper 80s throughout the week with continuing low humidity, westerly winds and a slight chance of thunderstorms which would unfortunately help fuel the fire.
The fire has led to a temporary two-week closure of a stretch of US Highway 550 which is near where the 416 Fire originated. In addition, the fire has led to the suspension of all services of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge railroads which run through the forest. The nearby city of Durango shut down hiking trails due to the concern that the fire would spread there. Evacuations have been ordered for many of the nearby small communities, however, many residents have been allowed to return due to the rain on the 16th and 17th. Also, Durango officially reopened their trails on June 21st. No damage to homes or deaths from the fire have been reported.
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© 2018 Meteorologist JP Kalb