Vail Valley fire crews battling Durango blaze

Fire crews from Eagle, Gypsum and Vail are in Durango fighting a growing fire in the southwest part of the state.
Hugh Fairfield-Smith|Great Eagle Fire District

If You Go ...

What: Ready Set Go.

Where: Brush Creek Pavilion, 909 Capitol St., Eagle

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 20.

Cost: Free.

More information: Hugh Fairfield-Smith, wildland fire coordinator for the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, will outline simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of wildland fire and improve your family’s safety.

DURANGO — Most of us drive away from fire at well above the posted speed limit. But some local firefighters received orders to jump, and jump they did.

Two local crews are in Durango helping battle the growing and complex 416 fire.

The Greater Eagle Fire/Gypsum Fire crew — Wildland Coordinator Hugh Fairfield-Smith, Engineer Ryan Gregor, Firefighter Derek Sabins and Lt. Patrick McGann — is helping keep the fire away from structures in Hermosa, near Durango. The fire had grown to 22,131 acres by Monday morning, June 11, and advanced to within a quarter mile of some of those houses in Hermosa before it was beaten back.

“It was pretty frightening to see the fire move that quickly,” Shawn Bawden, public information officer for the 416 fire told the Durango Herald.

Vail also has a crew in Durango, and there they’ll stay until at least Monday, June 18. Vail Fire Chief Mark Novak sent a brush engine and four-man wildland crew: Wildland Coordinator Paul Cada, Lt. Todd Burtar, Zach Herwehe and Ian Wedow.

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“We’ll be here a while,” Fairfield-Smith said.

The U.S. Forest Service announced Monday morning that it intends to close the entire San Juan National Forest beginning Tuesday, June 12, because of the fire danger.

They’re all bad

The Durango fire was upgraded to a Type 1 incident, the largest and most complex.

Then again, all fires are big when you’re in them.

“They’re all bad,” Fairfield-Smith said.

Durango is the Greater Eagle crew’s second sojourn of this young fire season. They’ve already been to Pueblo this spring.

Last summer, Fairfield-Smith and his crew traveled to Montana, Washington, Oregon, Kansas grasslands and northern California. They were not on vacation, not even working vacations.

When crews get these orders, they commit to 14 days.

So far, 674 fire fighters are working the Durango fire.

The fire started about 10 a.m. Friday, June 1, 10 miles north of Durango. It’s burning on some private land and on the San Juan National Forest. For the most part, it’s burning grass, brush and timber.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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