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Brush fires ignite around Montezuma County

Deer flee a fire on County Road 26 Friday north of Cortez. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Largest was 4-acre uncontrolled burn; others started by welding spark, kids playing with matches, sheriff says

Firefighters responded to several brush fires Friday in Montezuma County.

The largest fire, on County Road 26 north of Cortez, burned about 4 acres, said Cortez Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Charlie Borden.

A controlled burn by a resident got out of control, he said.

The fire raced across fields of grass and sagebrush and into a cluster of pine and juniper trees. It crossed onto neighboring property and burned a wooden bridge and trees.

No major structures were damaged, and there were no injuries. The fire burned in a rural area with homes nearby. A herd of deer fled the fire to the south.

A woman who started the controlled burn was issued a citation for misdemeanor arson by the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office because the fire crossed onto a neighbor’s property and caused damage, Nowlin said.

Borden said the woman had informed dispatchers before setting the controlled burn, as required by county law.

An uncontrolled burn broke out on County Road 26 Friday morning. Multiple fire agencies responded. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

“Her mistake was not having enough help and burning late in the morning. The fire got away from her when the winds picked up,” Nowlin said.

Fire department crews and equipment from Cortez, Lewis, Mancos, and Dolores responded. Crews from Colorado Fire Prevention and Control also responded.

The fire started about 11:45 a.m. and traveled north and west. A large plume of white smoke could be seen for miles. High flames were visible as the fire burned into trees. By 12:30 p.m., the fire was 75% contained, Borden said, and it was fully contained by 1:30 p.m.

Borden emphasized that residents must notify dispatchers of their plan for a controlled burn, and be given permission to start one.

Controlled burns are not allowed during county burn bans, red flag days or wind advisory days, and should be done early in the morning before the wind picks up. It is important to have enough people on hand to control the fire and have an adequate water source, Borden said. The county currently is not under a burn ban.

As a precaution, firetrucks were stationed at nearby homes in case the fire approached closer. No evacuations were required.

A controlled burn got out of control on County Road 26 late Friday morning north of Cortez. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

Three other fires were reported in the county Friday afternoon.

At 1:07 p.m., the Cortez Fire Protection District responded to a small brush fire in the 3000 block of County Road G. It was quickly extinguished and appeared to have been started by somebody throwing a cigarette out a vehicle’s window, Borden said.

At 1:52 p.m., the Lewis-Arriola Fire Department put out a small fire less than one-quarter of an acre on County Road 25. A welding spark might have caused the fire, Nowlin said.

At 2:05 p.m., the Mancos Fire Department responded to a small brush fire on Road J.75. It was quickly put out and was about 150 feet away from a home. It was started by kids playing with matches, Nowlin said.

“The kids got a strong talking-to about the dangers of playing with fire. I think they got the message,” Nowlin said.

Borden said fire crews have responded to at least five uncontrolled burns in the county in the past two weeks.