Incident Commander on the 416 Fire interviewed as the team’s assignment ends

Since the fire started June 1 about 10 miles north of Durango, CO., it has burned over 34,000 acres west of Highway 550

Above: An undated photo of the 416 Fire, from Inciweb.

After being assigned to the 416 Fire for two weeks Todd Pechota’s Type 1 Incident Management Team will demobilize Friday morning and transition to Joe Reinarz’s National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) team. Mr. Pechota is the Forest Fire Management Officer on the Black Hills National Forest but is currently detailed into his former bosses job which is vacant, the Forest Supervisor position.

File photo of Forest FMO Todd Pechota on a prescribed fire in 2016. Screen grab from a video by Bill Gabbert.

As Mr. Pechota’s time on the 416 Fire wound down, Alex Semadeni, a writer for the Durango Herald, interviewed the Incident Commander.

Below is an excerpt:

“We were playing a bit of a tough hand based on weather and topography and fuels,” Pechota said. “In many, many places of the fire, we just couldn’t land on a place where being able to take care of them (firefighters) in the event of an injury was an acceptable risk.”

Pechota was also concerned about the fire’s proximity to homes and the city of Durango in general. The fact that the fire was across the highway from the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire wasn’t lost on him either.

“It’s kind of eerie,” he said. “If you’re a student of fire, you would look across the road and see the burn scar of Missionary Ridge. And what is the thing about Missionary Ridge that people remember? Some people it may have been the flooding. Some people it may have been the size. Some people it may have been the huge fire whirl that went across Vallecito. But many of us, the thing that we remember is that somebody died fighting the fire.

“That’s one of those things that when you’re asking young men and women to go engage a fire that you look right across the road and there is the burn scar from an event that took somebody’s life. It heightens our awareness, it heightens our sensitivity of operations, all those kind of things.”

416 Fire chinook helicopter
A Billings Helicopters Chinook departs from a water source after refilling their new internal water tank to help suppress the 416 Fire.

Weather slows fire activity in Western United States

Above: Accumulated precipitation over the last seven days, June 12-18, 2018. 

Moderating weather over the last seven days has helped firefighters make progress on some of the fires in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah. Today’s national Situation Report showed little or no increase in the size of wildfires in those four states. The 416 Fire in southwest Colorado and the Badger Creek Fire in southern Wyoming released a total of 345 personnel over the last 24 hours.

Todd Pechota’s Type 1 Incident Management Team is currently assigned to the 416 Fire, but Joe Reinarz’s NIMO team has been mobilized for the fire, which could be an indication that they expect it to be a long term incident. The west side of the fire has spread into steep, remote terrain above 8,000 feet as it grows closer to an 11,000 to 12,000-foot ridge five miles away. Much of the ridge is above the timber line and may eventually, with patience over time, serve as a barrier. Mr. Reinarz’s team team will transition on Friday.

Below, National Weather Service graphics show the observed precipitation and the departure from normal for the last 30 and 90 days.

precipitation 30 days
Accumulated precipitation, May 20 through June 18, 2018. NWS.
precipitation 30 days
Precipitation departure from average, May 20 through June 18, 2018. NWS.
precipitation 90 days
Accumulated precipitation March 21 through June 18, 2018. NWS.
precipitation 90 days
Precipitation departure from average, March 21 through June 18, 2018. NWS.

Buffalo Mountain Fire causes evacuations near Silverthorne, Colo.

Above: The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at the Buffalo Mountain Fire near Silverthorne, Colorado at 1:39 p.m. MDT June 12, 2018

(Originally published at 4:03 p.m. MDT June 12, 2018)

The Buffalo Mountain Fire started today, June 12, on the west side of Silverthorne, Colorado north of Frisco near Buffalo Mountain. At about 6:30 p.m. the Forest Service announced that it had burned about 90 acres.

The name was changed from “Buffalo Fire” to “Buffalo Mountain Fire” Tuesday afternoon.

Approximately 1,400 homes are under evacuation orders, which are likely to remain in effect through Tuesday night at least.

The local District Ranger said at a community meeting that the fuel reduction projects they had been working on for years are paying off, helping to protect structures.

Fire north of Durango continues westward expansion

Above: Firefighters on the 416 Fire. Photo uploaded to Inciweb around June 9, 2018. Photographer unknown.

(UPDATED at 7:03 a.m. MDT June 13, 2018)

Most of the spread of the 416 Fire north of Durango, Colorado Tuesday and Tuesday night was on the west side where it continues to grow onto the higher slopes in terrain that becomes increasingly difficult for ground-based firefighters. The fire ate up about 1,500 acres to bring the total to 25,900 acres.

It was announced Tuesday night that  the evacuation order for residents in San Juan County will lift at 8 a.m. on June 13. Residents will need to present a Rapid Tag resident credentials to return. The residences in San Juan County will remain on pre-evacuation notice.

map 416 fire colorado wildfire
The red lines indicate the perimeters of the 416 and Burro Fires at 10:51 p.m. June 12, 2018. The yellow line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.

Resources on the 416 Fire include 9 Type 1 hand crews, 14 Type 2 hand crews, 55 engines, 3 dozers, and 4 water tenders for a total of 1,028 personnel. There are 203 personnel on the Burro Fire.

There was very little growth or activity on the Burro Fire Tuesday.

Fire management authorities are not releasing the cause of either fire.


(Originally published at 12:12 p.m. MDT June 12, 2018)

The wildfire with the odd name, “416”, continues to be very active especially on the west side. Over the past two days it has grown two miles closer to Durango, Colorado on the south side and is now seven miles from the north edge of the city, covering a total of 23,378 acres.

The west side of the 416 Fire has been the location of most of the activity recently where it has spread seven miles west of Highway 550 and to within six miles of another blaze, the 2,337-acre Burro Fire.

412 fire burro colorado wildfire
A 3-D map looking northwest showing the fires north and northwest of Durango, Colorado. The red line around the 416 Fire was the perimeter at 10:12 a.m. MDT June 11. The yellow line was the perimeter two days earlier. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:13 a.m. June 12.

The west side of the 416 Fire is burning at over 8,000 feet in terrain that is difficult for ground resources. An 11,000 foot ridge separates the two fires and in normal times should serve as a barrier preventing them from merging, but the way wildfires have been behaving in recent years is anything but “normal”.

Todd Pechota’s Type 1 Incident Management Team is handling both fires.

The weather forecast for the fire area through Thursday calls for south and southwest winds of less than 10 mph, temperatures in the low 80’s, and 9 to 12 percent relative humidity. Beginning Thursday there is a chance of thunderstorms.

map burro fire 416 wildfires
Map showing the fires north and northwest of Durango, Colorado. The red line around the 416 Fire was the perimeter at 10:12 p.m. MDT June 11. The yellow line was the perimeter two days earlier. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:13 a.m. June 12.
trail mountain fire badger creek 416
Satellite photo at 6:42 p.m. MDT June 11, 2018, showing the Trail Mountain Fire, Badger Creek Fire, and the 416 Fire.

Boco Fire burns over 400 acres near Eagle, Colorado

Above: The Boco Fire, shortly after it started June 9, 2018. Eagle County Sheriff’s Office photo.

The Boco Fire, one of two fires on Saturday in Eagle County, Colorado, quickly grew to over 400 acres in a few hours. It started 8 miles northeast of Eagle and was aggressively attacked as orders were placed for 5 Heavy Air Tankers, 1 Lead Plane, 1 Air Attack, 2 Single Engine Air Tankers, 1 Type 1 Helicopter, 1 Type 3 Helicopter, 1 Hotshot crew, and 1 Type 2 Initial Attack Crew. The aircraft assisted the firefighters on the ground who responded from several agencies.

Officials report Sunday morning that it has burned 415 acres. Most of Colorado was under a Red Flag Warning Saturday which is still in effect Sunday.

A few miles away a man shooting at exploding targets started another fire Saturday that was suppressed by firefighters while it was still fairly small.

Below is an excellent video of an air tanker drop on the fire by what appears to be an RJ85 air tanker (or possibly a BAe-146).

UPDATE #BoccoFire is now at 415 acres. Heavy suppression efforts are underway. Hwy 131 remains open this morning and may be closed this afternoon if necessary. pic.twitter.com/PwtgIqG3Lf

Man faces charges for starting wildfire with exploding target in Colorado

These dangerous devices are banned in many areas and have started many fires in the United States

Above: Firefighters suppress a fire started by a person shooting at an exploding target southeast of Eagle, Colorado June 9, 2018. Photo by Eagle River Fire Protection District.

A man has been charged with 4th Degree Arson and Reckless Endangerment for allegedly starting a fire at an unofficial shooting range near Minturn southeast of Eagle, Colorado on June 9.

According to the Eagle County Sheriff’s office the fire was started by the use of an exploding target.

Thanks to green vegetation at the scene and the efforts of firefighters, the fire was suppressed while it was still fairly small. Most of the state of Colorado was under a Red Flag Warning Saturday. On the same day the Boco Fire burned about 400 acres a few miles away.

Exploding targets are known to have started numerous fires. In 2017 an off-duty Border Patrol agent shooting at an exploding target started what became the 46,000-acre Sawmill Fire south of Tucson, Arizona which cost at least $5 million to fight.

Exploding targets consist of two ingredients that when mixed by the end user create an explosion if shot by a high-velocity projectile. They have been banned in some areas, and in June, 2013 a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed after shrapnel from the device struck him in the abdomen causing his death. The Missoulian reported that several years ago a woman in Ohio had her hand nearly blown off while taking a cellphone video of a man firing at an exploding target placed in a refrigerator about 150 feet away.

After the ingredients are combined, the compound is illegal to transport and is classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and is subject to the regulatory requirements in 27 CFR, Part 555.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged exploding targets.