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Hickenlooper says Durango is ‘open for business,’ despite nearby fire

Author: Joey Bunch - June 13, 2018 - Updated: June 13, 2018

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Hickenlooper fireGov. John Hickenlooper addresses reporters at a news conference on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, at the state Capitol in Denver. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

Gov. John Hickenlooper stressed to reporters Wednesday morning that “Durango is open for business.”

The town is not threatened by the 416 Fire that has burned about 36,000 acres about 10 miles north of Durango, he said.

“If you want to help the people of Durango and LaPlata County, go down and visit,” Colorado’s governor said at a press conference at the Capitol, noting that small businesses pay a price when tourism is disrupted.

The fire, the largest of eight burning across the state, was about 15 percent contained Wednesday morning.

There have been no deaths or reports of injuries, the state’s highest priority, Hickenlooper said.

The governor urged people to stay away from areas under evacuation orders.

“We understand people aren’t as concerned about evacuations when the fire doesn’t appear to them to be imminent,” Hickenlooper said. “The fact of the matter is these fires can move very, very rapidly.”

The 416 Fire has cost about $10 million to date and more than 1,000 firefighters were battling the blaze Wednesday morning, officials said.

Gripped by drought, low humidity and oppressive heat — most of the main ingredients of a conflagration — fires are burning in LaPlata, Montezuma, Eagle, Las Animas, Summit and Jackson counties, as well as a handful of smaller communities.

The U.S. Forest Service reports eight wildfires from about 79 acres to more than 36,000 acres burning across Colorado Wednesday morning. They collectively consumed almost 49,000 acres, according to state and federal estimates.

Hickenlooper said an aggressive early attack on the Buffalo Mountain Fire in Summit County appears, at least for now, to have spared the heavily populated area near Silverthorne, Nearly 1,400 homes were evacuated and more than 1,100 others were put on pre-evacuation notice.

The massive fires that blazed across Colorado in 2012 and 2013 helped the state and its firefighting partners prepare for a year such as this, Hickenlooper said. In 2012, the state lost 252,000 acres to flames, and in 2013 more than 195,000 acres were consumed by flames.

“We have more firefighting resources in Colorado than any state in the Rocky Mountain West,” Hickenlooper said. “We have acquired experience and learned how to integrate and coordinate our efforts between federal resources, state resources and county and municipal resources to make sure we have a synergy there.”

Hickenlooper, Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, as well as Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez are scheduled to visit the Durango area Friday to meet with fire officials and hear from local residents.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.