The Ghost of the 416 Fire


Jack Breezly, Reporter

The 416 fire has not only had an effect on the local economy, but its ghost is causing harm months after. Mudslides have caused concern in Hermosa, which is situated 10 miles north of Durango.  

Durango’s economy was hurt quite badly by the 416 fire, but Hermosa’s economy was hurt worse. Not to mention the fact that most of the residents of Hermosa had to evacuate. But, the fire’s damage wasn’t done yet. July 17th the fire had passed Hermosa creek and was heading west, leaving behind a trail of burnt, dry, unsaturated, moon-like landscape.

“A heavy rain could then send down soil, ash, and boulders,” says John Lancaster, an owner at a Hermosa Condominium settlement. The dry soil would not be able to absorb much water, leaving the water to go down hill..

The Hermosa Creek drainage is huge at 37,000 acres. With many valleys for water to flow down, torrents would build in the drainage and flow downstream. Unfortunately for the residents of Hermosa, the creek runs straight through town.

On July 17th, the first rainstorm of the monsoon season hit the area. Enough rain fell to show that floods were inevitable. The biggest flood came on the 24th. Several inches fell in only a half an hour; a recipe for disaster.

The rains sent down waves of mud, trees, and boulders the sizes of cars.  “There were so many boulders,” said Lancaster. So many boulders that it clogged tunnels and gullies. With nowhere for the water to go but up, it made its way onto properties, bringing with it mud- and lots of it.

“Mud was just about everywhere on our property,” said Lancaster, “But we were fortunate that it wasn’t worse for us.”

Condominiums just a bit upstream from Johns were far more heavily damaged. Boulders had smashed into them and mud had covered everything. The only mud on Lancaster’s property was in the laundry room.

Mud, however, was the new ground. All of the lawns, parking spots, everything had been covered in mud. Boulders also scarred the landscape, as they had been moved out of the creek and onto properties.

“Every time it has rained since the big flood, everyone gets worried,” said Lancaster. “At least the worst has passed.”

The good news is that the July 24th storm had washed down the majority of the boulders and debris,thus only leaving mud and water to come down. But with nothing to clog the waterways, flooding has not occurred since.  

“Organizations were a tremendous help during the 416 Fire, but the flood was so unexpected, it left few choices,” Lancaster said.

Unfortunately, few organizations are helping, but the good news is that people are rebuilding.

We will be cleaning up and rebuilding for months, but we still feel fortunate that it could have been worse. No lives were lost,” Lancaster said.