U.S. Highway 160 has been closed on Wolf Creek Pass due to a pair of nearby wildfires, the Colorado Department of Transportation said.
Two fires in the Wolf Creek Pass area continue to spread today, with the West Fork Fire “spotting” over the Continental Divide into the Rio Grande National Forest. The Windy Pass Fire on Wednesday reached within a quarter-mile of the ski area.CDOT gave no estimated time when it may reopen.
An initial attack crew from the Rio Grande National Forest was headed out to battle the spot fire at 11 a.m. today, Pam Wilson, a spokeswoman with the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center, said in a news release.
As a precaution, the Forest Service closed the Big Meadows Campground on the Rio Grande side of Wolf Creek Pass in the area of the spot fire. The Tucker Ponds Campground, also in Rio Grande but on the ski area (east) side of the road, was also closed.
On Wednesday the West Fork Fire, burning primarily in the Weminuche Wilderness, more than tripled in size, from 3,879 acres to 12,001 acres.
Those as far away as Bayfield saw a huge plume of smoke in the sky as of 1 p.m. today. On Wednesday afternoon the smoke plume reached 30,000 feet and the smoke impacted cities as far away as Pueblo, Wilson said. Firefighters reported flames up to 100 feet high.
Meanwhile, the nearby Windy Pass Fire went from 191 acres to 709 acres Wednesday. It had reached within one-quarter-mile of infrastructure at Wolf Creek Ski Area.
Firefighters are attempting to hold both fires to the western (San Juan National Forest) side of the Continental Divide.
The news release said that additional fire engines have been deployed today to the ski area for structure protection to supplement firefighters already in place.
The Mineral County Sheriff’s Office has issued pre-evacuation orders for residents and visitors on the West Fork Road and East Fork drainage. East Fork Campground remains open, but the road beyond is closed.