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Fire crews continue fighting Bear Dance Fire on Saturday

Firefighters manage to keep blaze from growing beyond 89 acres
Flames from the Bear Dance Fire reach into the trees on Friday as it burns east of Ignacio. The fire had spread to 89 acres by Saturday, but firefighters managed to keep it from growing more as of Saturday afternoon. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

About 100 firefighters continued to battle the Bear Dance Fire on Saturday that flared to life shortly after noon Friday. Fire crews were working to set a perimeter around the fire that had consumed 89 acres as of 3:40 p.m. Saturday.

Firefighters were working to put out hot spots within the burn area on Saturday and have made “great progress” since Friday, Lindsay Box, spokeswoman for Southern Ute Indian Tribe, said.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction forecast a high temperature of 83 degrees and southwest winds up to 15 mph for Saturday. Box said fire crews are taking precautions to make sure flare ups with the Bear Dance Fire don’t occur. Because of the wind, firefighters have a safety officer on scene for their own safety.

A news release by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe distributed Friday evening said “fuels remain critically dry due to the mega drought conditions.”

Box said cottonwoods in the area are “extremely dry” and can be “troublesome” for firefighters trying to contain the blaze. On Friday, the Bear Dance Fire quickly burned through brush willows and cottonwoods. Firefighters worked to contain the blaze to the Pine River river bed.

A pre-evacuation status was placed on about 25 homes along county roads 516 and 517 near Sundance Road on Friday and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe campus was evacuated. But there have been no evacuation orders since then, and the pre-evacuation status for county residents on county roads 516 and 517 has been lifted, Box said.

Ute Park Road remains closed from Bear Dance Road to the intersection of County Road 517.

Firefighters’ incident command is located at the SunUte Community Center there, directly across the street from where the fire initially erupted, Box said.

The La Plata Electric Association cut power to about 5,700 customers in the Bayfield and Ignacio areas around 1:30 p.m. Friday because power lines were in the way of where fire resources were working, said Hillary Knox, a spokeswoman with the electric co-op.

About 3,200 Bayfield homes and businesses had power restored at 2:20 p.m., according to LPEA. Another 2,500 customers in the Ignacio area had their power restored around 6:30 p.m. Friday, Box said.

A large brush fire was burning behind the Bear Dance campgrounds in the Ignacio area, according to a Facebook message from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. (Courtesy)

The Bear Dance Fire was reported at 12:23 p.m. behind the Bear Dance campgrounds just east of Ignacio town limits. Fire officials are still investigating the source of the fire, according to a news release.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe requested support from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Southern Ute Fire Management Office, U.S. Forest Service and Los Pinos Fire Protection District, Box said. The Durango Fire Protection District also assisted and a Type 3 federal management team was called in to take over command of the fire.

Three interagency hotshot teams also assisted in fighting the blaze on Friday and were still on scene Saturday, Box said.

Three helicopters and two to three aircraft assisted firefighters on Friday and remained on standby in case they were needed on Saturday, Box said.

No structures were lost and no injuries were reported as of 3:40 p.m. Saturday, Box said.

“We’re very, very, very appreciative of all of the resources that jumped on our request for help,” Box said. “... And so our community is extremely thankful for all of the resources that came so that we were able to contain it at 89 acres rather than seeing it grow up the Pine River.”


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