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Summer of Fire

Summer of Fire

In the middle of the morning on June 1, 2018, a wildfire broke out about 10 miles north of Durango, with a single plume clearly visible from the Fort Lewis College campus. Named the 416 Fire after the initial incident report’s number, the fire quickly grew in this past summer’s unusually dry condition, becoming a curtain of thick smoke visible from all over Durango, which choked on smoke each night as air drained from the high country into the Animas Valley.

During the course of the burn, fire crews came from all over the West to help fight the conflagration, which; at its peak the fire was engaged by 1,100 firefighters. More than 1,300 homes and businesses were eventually forced to evacuate. The fire also forced the closure at various times of Purgatory Ski Resort, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, and the San Juan National Forest, as well as sporadic closures of segments of U.S. 550.

The 416 Fire was finally declared contained by the U.S. Forest Service on July 31 and fully controlled on October 5 – 127 days after it began. By the end, the 416 Fire scorched 54,129 acres, entering the record books as Colorado’s sixth largest wildfire in history.

As part of the community in southwestern Colorado, Fort Lewis College and its staff, faculty, and students played important roles during and after the 416 Fire. Here are just a few of the ways FLC made a difference in this difficult time.

You can mouseover the icons below to see how FLC faculty, staff and students worked with the community during the 416 Fire. And, click here to view Stephen Eginoire's intense photos of the fire.

Alex Semadeni

The Independent editor and senior Journalism & Multimedia Studies major Alex Semadeni was the lead reporter covering the 416 Fire for The Durango Herald. He was assisted by intern and Journalism & Multimedia Studies major Ryan Simonovich.

Mickey Campbell

Assistant Professor of Geosciences Mickey Campbell collaborated with local and federal agencies to create an interactive GIS map of the 416 Fire to keep the public up to date on the ever-changing fire situation and evacuation zones. Campbell now is developing an app for firefighters in the field that will feature an interactive map keeping them informed of possible escape routes.

Julie Korb

Professor of Biology Julie Korb and several of her present and former students spent the summer researching how controlled burns and forest thinning improve forest health in the San Juan National Forest. Since the 416 Fire, she has spoken to local communities, urging southwestern Coloradoans to work to "manage fire for the type we want."

Mesa Verde Interagency Helitack

The Mesa Verde Interagency Helitack crew, which was on call for short-haul rescue operations and helped help fight the fire from the air, was stationed at the Old Fort Lewis campus, in Hesperus.

416 Fire Services

Fort Lewis College set up a section of theFort, the College community’s online portal, for classifieds called "416 Fire Services." It was a place where FLCers could offer services and assistance (some football players offered to help people evacuate, for example), lodging to displaced residents, and free meals for those in need.

Emergency Shelter

Fort Lewis College worked with the City of Durango and the Red Cross to act as an emergency shelter for the area, if needed. The College also offered to provide housing for up to 80 firefighters before trailers supplied by FEMA became available.

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