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Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper says Durango is 'open for business,' despite nearby fire

June 13, 2018 Updated: June 13, 2018 at 2:55 pm
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Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks at a press conference in Denver about wildfires burning in Colorado on Wednesday. Photo by Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics.

DENVER - Gov. John Hickenlooper stressed to reporters Wednesday morning that "Durango is open for business."

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

"If you want to help the people of Durango and La Plata County, go down and visit," the 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 as of Wednesday morning, officials said.

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

The U.S. Forest Service reported eight wildfires from about 79 acres to more than 36,000 acres burning across Colorado. They collectively have 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.

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