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Firefighters battle dry, windy conditions in Southwest Colorado; Trail Canyon Fire at 840 acres

Mud Creek Fire 2, burning near Towaoc, contained at 150 acres
The Mud Creek Fire 2 was contained at 150 acres on Saturday evening. (The Journal)

No significant activity was reported overnight on the Trail Canyon Fire, which is burning about 10 miles northwest of Red Mesa on Ute Mountain Ute tribal lands.

The lightning-started fire, burning in piñon, juniper and sage, grew to 840 acres by Saturday afternoon, according to Inciweb, a multiagency fire information management system.

About 65 firefighters were working the blaze, and a Type 2 helicopter has been assigned to it, said Andy Lyon, a spokesman with the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center.

The blaze is located a few miles west of Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park.

Additional resources were expected to arrive Sunday, Lyon said.

Crews also have access to fixed-wing tankers out of the U.S. Forest Service’s Durango Airtanker Base, located at the Durango-La Plata County Airport.

A Type 3 Incident Management Team is leading the firefighting effort. No containment percentage has been given for the Trail Canyon Fire.

The fire slowed when the head of the fire burned out of a piñon-juniper forest and hit a mix of grass and brush.

Weather conditions Sunday are not expected to help firefighters. The forecast is for hot and dry conditions with breezes of 10 to 20 mph increasing to 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon.

Sunday’s high temperature in Red Mesa is expected to hit 94 degrees.

Smoke from the Trail Canyon Fire can be seen from U.S. Highway 160, from areas near Cortez and Durango.

Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin said another fire, the Mud Creek Fire 2, burning near Towaoc, was contained Saturday night.

The Mud Creek Fire 2 reached about 150 acres when it was contained, Nowllin said.

“They threw a lot of air and ground assets at it Saturday, and that’s what really helped,” he said.

The Mud Creek Fire 2 was reported to the Durango Fire Interagency Dispatch Center at 2:59 p.m. Friday. It was burning in remote piñon-sage terrain on Ute Mountain Ute tribal land about 3 miles east of Ute Mountain and 5 miles west of Cortez Municipal Airport.

Like the other blazes, it was ignited by dry lightning

Other agencies battling the Mud Creek Fire 2 included Bureau of Indian Affairs fire crews and Bureau of Land Management Type 2 and Type 3 crews.

As of Saturday night, 22 small lightning-started fires had been reported in La Plata County after a dry storm moved through the area, said Scot Davis, another spokesman with the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center.

Stage I fire restrictions banning open burning, agricultural burning, campfires and fireworks are in place on Southern Ute Indian Tribe lands, La Plata County, the San Juan National Forest and Bureau of Land Management parcels across Southwest Colorado.

A fire ban is also in effect in Montezuma County banning open fires and the use of fireworks.

A red flag warning of weather conditions conducive to the spread of wildfire is in effect for Southwest Colorado through 9 p.m. Sunday.

The red flag warning reports humidity will range from 7% to 12% with northwest winds ranging from 10 to 20 mph with gusts up to 35 mph.

On Sunday, firefighters were concentrating on the Hazard Fire, a 4-acre blaze burning northeast of Marvel

“There were so many lightning strikes, and those roots just sit there and cook underneath or even on top of the ground, and then when the winds pick up it just fans them up. So we identified a lot of fires from that activity, and we’re going back and revisiting all of those to make sure they’re cooling down,” Davis said.

On Saturday, the main small, lightning-started blaze in La Plata County concerning firefighters was the River Fire northwest of Redmesa near the La Plata River. It was contained Saturday evening at 10 acres, Davis said.

parmijo@durangoherald.com

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