Aspen aids Durango in forest fire

Aspen firefighters Jacob Arywitz and Adrian Augliar and new wildland-fire intern Grant Duta stand along side Aspen Fire Protection District Engine 63 during their structure-protection assignment for the Durango-area fire during Structure Protection assignment alongside AFPD Engine 63.
Rick Balentine/Special to The Aspen Times

Four members of the Aspen Fire Department have headed south to the Durango area to help assist in a forest fire that had grown to more than 2,400 acres as of Monday morning.

Volunteers Adrian Augliar, Jacob Arywitz and Grant Duta left Sunday with Fire Chief Rick Balentine for the afflicted region, bringing with them one of the department’s fire engines.

“As of this morning it is still 10 percent contained,” Balentine said from the field at approximately 1:50 p.m. Monday.

Balentine said the Aspen Fire Department is serving a two-week deployment. The chief said he might not be in the area for the duration but would send in an Aspen replacement for him.

“Our job is protecting structures,” he said. “We’re doing mitigation, putting up sprinklers, setting up hose lines.”

The Durango Herald reported that the timber and brush blaze, known as the 416 Fire, had grown by 147 acres to 2,402 by Monday morning. An estimated 825 homes had been evacuated and another 1,021 homes were on pre-evacuation notice, the newspaper reported.

A 14-mile stretch of Highway 550 also was closed due to heavy smoke Monday afternoon; the same highway had been closed Friday but reopened Sunday and Monday to limited traffic before closing again.

“They don’t think this fire will be out until the end of June,” Balentine said, noting that “it’s such a sporadic fire going in and out of a lot of valleys, running in a lot of different directions.”

The fire ignited 10 miles north of Durango on Friday night.

Nearly 400 firefighters are at the scene, The Associated Press reported.

“There are a lot of people here, a lot of crews, because there really aren’t that many fires going on across the West,” Balentine said. “There’s a lot of good work being done.”