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UPDATE: Plateau Fire grows; containment remains 95 percent

Local crews set up camp at fire’s northwestern edge

The Plateau Fire north of Dolores grew to 17,778 acres as of Thursday morning, and containment remained at 95 percent.

Cloudy skies, light rain and increased humidity on Wednesday limited the fire’s growth to just 20 acres, all within contained fire lines, the fire team said Thursday.

Firefighters spent the day felling hazard trees and extinguishing hot spots within 135 feet from the perimeter of the fire.

Where conditions allow, firefighters plan to begin rehabbing fire lines. This may involve seeding, pulling cut debris over fire lines and chipping debris, the fire team said.

The last gap in the containment line is on the north and northwest sides of the fire, south of Glade Road (Forest Service Road 514). It lies in rugged terrain that has proved too dangerous for hand crews to build a line.

According to the local Type 3 team that has assumed command of the Plateau Fire, a flight at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday showed the fire had grown 425 acres during the morning, primarily on its northeast side and along the walls of Beaver Canyon.

Fire activity continued Tuesday afternoon, and firefighters patrolled containment lines and extinguished hot spots.

The Type 2 Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Black, which fought and managed the fire during its strongest growth, turned over command of the fire to Type 3 incident commander Jerran Flinders at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Flinders’ team began dismantling the incident command center at County Road W and Dolores-Norwood Road on Wednesday morning, and planned to set up a small camp near the northwestern edge of the fire.

The firefighting force has downsized rapidly in the past few days, from more than 300 on Sunday to 47 on Thursday.

Full containment was expected Aug. 30. The cost of the fire so far is $3 million.

The Dolores-Norwood Road (FSR 526), House Creek Road (FSR 528), Dry Creek Road (FSR 510) and the Boggy Draw trails east of Dolores-Norwood Road reopened on Sunday, but drivers were urged to use caution near the fire area because firefighters are still in the area.

San Juan National Forest land remains closed west of the Dolores-Norwood Road to The Glade Road (FRS 514) on the north, House Creek Road (FSR 528) on the south and McPhee and Dry Creek Road (FSR 510) on the west.

Smoke continues to come off the Plateau Fire, and along with smoke from other regional fires, it has affected residents in Montezuma and Dolores counties.

On Tuesday, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment issued an air quality advisory for much of the Western Slope, effective until 9 a.m. Wednesday. Air quality in the Four Corners area remained “moderate” on Wednesday and Thursday.

The federal Team Black, which arrived last week, gave residents a summary of its efforts during a public meeting Sunday at the Dolores Community Center before leaving the area.

“Overall, we have had good success,” said Phil Daniels, operations section chief for Team Black. “The fire will burn out on its own.”

Containment does not mean the fire is out, Daniels said, and about 1,500 acres of unburned forest within the fire’s containment perimeter will continue to burn. Smoke will continue to settle in the West Fork and Dolores river valleys.

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