While fire crews work to contain three wildfires in Southwest Colorado, one small fire, north of Pagosa Springs, has grown more complex.
The Sand Creek Fire, in a remote area on the Pagosa Ranger District, has grown to 25 acres, a significant growth from Friday when it covered 12 acres, said Esther Godson, San Juan National Forest spokesperson. Because of standing dead trees and heavy downed tree hazards, responding to the fire is difficult and dangerous for fire crews. In response, the U.S. Forest Service will increase its response to the fire Sunday.
“It’s in such a remote and difficult to access area. That means it’s going to become a longer-duration fire,” Godson said. “Given the safety hazards and the limited access available, we’re bringing in a Type 3 incident management team.”
The local San Juan National Forest Type 3 Incident Management Team will assume command. Type 3 IMTs are deployed when more personnel are required to respond as a fire grows larger, when more resources are required and/or as the response to the fire grows more complex, for example when multiple agencies are involved.
The Sand Creek Fire was started by a lightning storm last weekend. It is burning in the 2012 Little Sand Fire scar and located 5 air miles north of the Piedra River and 2.5 miles south of Mosca Road.
Red Flag conditions, including wind and hot weather, contributed to the fire’s growth. Helicopters have been providing water bucket drops on the incident daily. Smoke is visible from Piedra Road, Williams Reservoir and U.S. Highway 160 between Bayfield and Pagosa looking north.
The Forest Service also received smoke reports from community members Saturday and deployed firefighters to see if those are actual fires or smoke from existing fires, Godson said.
Fire restrictions are still in place.
“It’s extreme fire danger this weekend. It’s a really good thing we’re getting reports of smoke from community members. That means we can get to the fire fast,” she said.
Fire crews held steady in their effort to contain the East Canyon Fire near Mancos from Friday to Saturday morning. As of 8 a.m., the fire covered 2,900 acres with 21% containment. A total of 402 fire personnel were working the East Canyon Fire, which broke out Sunday on the La Plata-Montezuma County line as a result of a lightning strike from a lightning storm that passed through the region June 13.
The Durango Interagency IMT 3 team maintained the Six Shooter Fire near Bondad at 75% containment and 224 acres, as of Saturday afternoon. The fire, located in Six Shooter Canyon on the Southern Ute Reservation, flared up Tuesday after a lightning strike from the same storm.
Smoke from the fire has improved, according to a Southern Ute Indian Tribe news release. Stage 1 fire restrictions, which prohibit open burning, agricultural burning, campfires and fireworks, will remain in effect until conditions improve.
The Loading Pen Fire, northwest of Durango in the Dolores River Valley, is about 90% contained as of Friday. The fire covers about 42 acres, and fire agencies estimate it will be fully contained by Monday. Smoke will continue to be visible to travelers along Colorado Highway 145.