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Mesa Verde National Park’s Long Fire, ignited by lightning, under control

Blaze expected to be fully contained by Sunday evening
A 23-acre fire, dubbed the Long Fire, broke out in Mesa Verde National Park after a lightning strike on Friday. Pictured: A 1-acre prescribed fire was planned from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 in the Chapin Mesa area of Mesa Verde National Park. (Durango Herald file)

A 23-acre blaze that broke out Friday in Mesa Verde National Park, southwest of Chapin Mesa and Long Mesa, has not gained any ground and is expected to be fully contained by Sunday evening. The fire was caused by a lightning strike.

Keith Krause, fire management officer at Mesa Verde National Park, said lightning caused three fires along the southern border of the park on Friday. Two of them were isolated to, essentially, a single tree and did not spread. But the Long Fire was sparked in a thick patch of juniper, which allowed it to grow to 23 acres.

The fire hasn’t spread any further as of Saturday afternoon and it isn’t expected to progress any further, he said.

One Type II IA crew and one engine crew were deployed to contain the fire, totaling 23 people on the scene.

“We were able to get it lined with retardant last night and had helicopters work it last night and again this morning,” he said. “... Everything is going well. We’re looking at, hopefully, full containment by tomorrow evening. And then I’ll get the crews back off before the rain and lightning comes in.”

Krause said late July is the prime fire season for Mesa Verde National Park.

“The monsoon season came in early this year, but this is our prime fire season as far as we get the majority of our starts,” he said.