West Fork Fire Complex

West Fork Fire complex

Papoose Fire burn area - burned trees with heart leaf arnica, purple fireweed and white aster blooming at the base. Photo by Mike Blakeman


The West Fork Fire Complex of 2013 was composed of three fires that burned more than 109,000 acres (179 square miles) on mostly public lands managed by the Rio Grande and San Juan National Forests.

  • Windy Pass Fire
    • Start: June 5, 2013
    • Cause: Lightning
    • Size: 1,417 acres (2 sq. miles)
    • Comments: Wolf Creek Ski Area was threatened by this fire. There was no loss of structures.
  • West Fork Fire
    • Start: June 5, 2013
    • Cause: Lightning
    • Size: 58,570 acres (91.5 sq. miles)
    • Comments: The fire started on the San Juan National Forest and sent embers over the Continental Divide onto the Rio Grande National Forest on June 19. Driven by 50-60 mph winds, the West Fork Fire spread seven miles on June 20. Although at one point the town of South Fork was threatened by this fire, there was no loss of structures.
  • Papoose Fire
    • Start: June 19, 2013
    • Cause: Lightning
    • Size: 49,628 acres (77.5 sq. miles)
    • Comments: More than 100 summer residences and resort cabins were threatened by the Papoose Fire. Firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading into the Squaw Creek drainage, thus protecting the major creeks that empty into Rio Grande Reservoir. On July 3, the fire spread more than 11,000 acres in the Trout Creek drainage. Only one small pump house was destroyed in the fire.


The West Fork and Papoose Fires burned more than 88,000 acres on the Rio Grande National Forest. Burned trees may be very unstable as the fire may have burned out roots or sections of the trees. Even a light wind may cause entire trees or sections of trees to fall. People visiting the burned areas are advised to be watchful and avoid unstable trees. Visitors should avoid being next to or within the burned areas on windy days and should not camp or park near burned trees. People driving through burned areas should carry a saw or ax as trees may fall across the road blocking their way out. Visitors are reminded that it is their decision to enter a burned area and that they are responsible for their own safety.

Forest Service Roads in the burn area that have safety concerns:

  • 530 - above Shaw Lake
  • 522 - entire road
  • 523/524 above Love Lake

Burned Area Emergency Response information