Fire officials battling the 416 Fire north of Durango have issued a containment date, or a date they believe a line will be built all the way around the fire, for July 31.
Though the fire is expected to continue burning until then, it doesn't mean the Type I team will manage the fire the entirety of the time, or that people will be out of their homes for that long, spokeswoman Jamie Knight said. The date is not a set-in-stone time for when the fire will be completely contained.
Fire behaviorists, weather experts and operations specialists work together to come up with the estimated time. They look at factors including moisture levels, fuel levels, weather patterns, fire behavior and daily operations to determine the date.
Conversations about residents returning home have taken place between the incident command post and law-enforcement agencies. The incident managing team and the San Juan National Forest give input to the La Plata County Sheriff's Office on evacuation notices, which ultimately makes the final decision. On Tuesday, San Juan County lifted evacuation orders for 184 homes.
On Wednesday, Day 13 of the 416 Fire, the blaze had grown to 25,900 acres and remains at 15 percent contained.
The total cost of firefighting operations has reached an estimated $10 million to date, Knight said. More than 1,000 firefighters will fight the fire Wednesday. Many will continue to monitor structures around the perimeter of the fire and monitor for potential spot fires that may occur. No structures have been lost.
"Given the fire behavior that we've been seeing and the amount of fire on the landscape and the amount of structures in the area, that's a really good thing," Knight said.
More burnouts are expected on the southwest perimeter of the fire near Junction Creek Road (County Road 204) in an effort to create a safe burn zone for the fire and eventually a containment line. These burnouts result in heavy smoke patterns that can be seen from Durango. Eight helicopters will continue to drop water to prevent the fire from reaching any structures.
"That's the overall goal, to help use fire to guide it around some of those places where we just can't put firefighters," Knight said.
Crews will continue to mitigate and defend structures on the north and the east side of the fire, which hasn't seen much fire activity the past couple of days.
"We don't anticipate there being a big push there in that northeastern corner," Knight said.
Crews will continue to build and maintain fire lines on the western perimeter of the fire. The goal is to get those lines secured to "box-in" the fire on the south end.
"It's going to come down to a point there, and that's what we're striving to achieve there, is to get that all nicely brought together," Knight said.
Though thunderstorms in the next few days could bring much-needed moisture to the area, officials are worried the storm could bring lightning and gusty winds that lead to unpredictable fire behavior.
Thunderstorms to the north and east of the fire could create gusty winds that could impact the fire today. The temperature at the fire is expected to reach a high of 86 degrees. Humidity levels are estimated between six and 12 percent.