DEL NORTE, Colo. (AP) – There’s no word yet on when U.S. Highway 160 will reopen in southwestern Colorado.
The highway, an important link to the Durango area and Mesa Verde National Park, was closed Wednesday for the seventh straight day between Wolf Creek Pass and Pagosa Springs because of the group of wildfires burning on about 127 square miles. The Windy Pass Fire is burning to the south and the West Fork Fire is burning to its north.
Businesses on both sides of the pass are pushing for the road to reopen, the Durango Herald reported.
Incident commander Pete Blume said crews are discussing whether to set a controlled burn to protect the highway from the blazes.
For now, helicopters are dropping water along the road to cool the ground, fire spokeswoman Laura McConnell said. A sudden run by the fires remains a concern. In addition, fire trucks with out-of-state crews driving on the unfamiliar road make it too dangerous to open now, she said.
Two specially equipped C-130 planes were dispatched to the fires again Wednesday. They’ve been focusing on dropping slurry to slow the Papoose Fire near Creede to protect houses. It has been the most active part of the West Fork fire complex lately.
Firefighters have been going from house to house to remove flammable hazards in that area and have been able to protect homes by setting back burns and using water, McConnell said. Sprinklers have also been installed to protect cabins the West Fork Fire area should the flames reach them.
Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia on Wednesday authorized $3 million in disaster emergency funds for costs related to the fire.
In southern Colorado, a 21-square-mile fire started by lightning near the Spanish Peaks last week was 70 percent contained. It’s no longer considered a threat to Walsenburg, 10 miles to the northeast. The fire has burned at least 12 structures, fire information officer Robyn Broyles said Wednesday.
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