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Open for business near Little Sand fire

Warm, dry conditions in Pagosa Country exist, making the area ready to burn with slight provocation.

The Little Sand Fire in the Piedra area is burning more than 14,000 acres (see information below), but was not the only fire in the area this week.

The King Fire began Tuesday afternoon in southern Archuleta County, near Montezuma Road, with the likely cause being forestry equipment, according to a county press release.

The fire burned on both private and Southern Ute land.

Helicopters, a small air tanker, engines and crews successfully held the fire at 25 acres.

According to the press release, extreme fire behavior was experienced, with small crown runs and active torching.

At sunset, however, the fire began to die down and mop-up operations began. Resources continued mop-up on the fire Wednesday.

Agencies involved include: BIA-Southern Ute Forestry Department, Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Forest Service, Pagosa Fire Protection District, Durango Helitact and additional air resources from the Little Sand Fire.

Little Sand Fire

Although the Little Sand Fire continues to burn, much of the Piedra area is still open for recreation.

Closed areas include the burn site, trails immediately adjacent to the fire, the portion of Forest Service Road 631 beyond the turnoff for William’s Reservoir and Poison Park Road.

Most campgrounds and businesses in the Piedra area are open. The Williams Creek Campground was closed in May for non-fire related reasons. Guides and outfitters who normally work in the area around the fire are still accepting clients and most have been re-routed and are still in operation.

For San Juan National Forest closures, visit http://tinyurl.com/littlesandclosures.

The following information was accurate as of Wednesday morning and was taken from press releases:

Start date: May 13.

Cause: lightning.

Acreage: 14,224.

Containment: 30 percent.

Personnel: 195.

Hand crews: three.

Cooperating agencies: Hinsdale County, Archuleta County, USFS, CSFS.

Aviation: four helicopters.

Engines: nine.

Dozer: one.

Injuries: two.

Structures destroyed: none.

Cost to date: $4.314 million.

Fire Behavior: Winds, warm temperatures and low humidity caused the fire to move farther up the North Fork and Big Sand drainages on the northwest side of the Little Sand Fire.

Despite the fire’s growth, fire managers report the red flag conditions were not as extreme as predicted. The northeast portion of the fire near the Weminuche Valley had very little activity due to the shading and cooling from the smoke column created by fire activity to the northwest. The fire remains near the valley floor, but the fire’s progress was slowerd by favorable conditions.

Evacuations remain in effect for the residents of Weminuche Valley.

A high pressure system is expected to move into the area over the next few days, which will result in milder wind conditions; however, there is still heat around most of the fire and firefighters will remain vigilant. Twenty-four hour point protection will continue at the two ranches in the Weminuche Valley, as well as patrolling and monitoring the mostly contained east side of the fire.

For Little Sand Fire Information, call 444-2201 or visit www.acemergency.org and www.inciweb.org.

randi@pagosasun.com

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