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Fire restrictions lifted, effects of recent storms linger

All fire restrictions for unincorporated, private lands in Archuleta County were lifted Tuesday thanks to recent monsoonal moisture that fell in the area, but, unfortunately, the effects of the recent intense storms is still being felt in other ways, as well.

Stage I fire restrictions were instituted on July 7 for the unincorporated private land within Archuleta County that is located south of U.S. 160 and west of U.S. 84.

With recent moisture, area officials were comfortable rescinding those restrictions, but not without urging folks to use caution.

Archuleta County Director of Emergency Management Thad McKain reminded those who choose to burn to have a water source and shovel nearby and to monitor fires at all times. Also, McKain reminded to make sure no red flag warning or fire watches are in effect before burning.

While the lifting of the fire restrictions is a positive outcome of the rain provided by the recent storms, other facets of the storms were not so positive.

Localized flooding in the downtown Pagosa Springs area, specifically in the area of 1st and 2nd streets along U.S. 160, has left both business owners, including the Pinewood Inn, and residential property owners facing unanticipated costs to recover from damage sustained.

On the other end of the spectrum, the storms also provoked numerous reports of smoke in wildland areas, though those fires were kept in check and firefighters within Archuleta County are not actively fighting any fires.

Perhaps the lightning strike fire that has demanded the most attention recently was not a wildland fire, but a structure fire.

Pagosa Fire Protection District personnel battled a “stubborn” blaze at a house in the Vista subdivision for more than five hours during the evening and night of July 16, that fire believed to be the result of a lightning strike earlier in the day.

According to PFPD Assistant Chief Brian Leewitt, who served as incident commander for the fire, 27 PFPD personnel and five apparatuses were used to fight the fire.

The call came in at 5:09 p.m. for the fire on Surrey Drive, with smoke coming out of the eaves of the house by the time firefighters arrived, Leewitt said.

The fire was contained to the attic space of the house, according to Leewitt, leaving the interior of the home clear of smoke.

However, when firefighters began to knock through the ceiling of the house to locate the fire, it flashed over -— the name given to the occasion when all combustibles, such as gasses, reach ignition temperature and flash, Leewitt explained.

“It was definitely a stubborn fire,” he said.

However, while crews battled the blaze via the ceiling and roof, additional firefighters were able to salvage numerous items from the house and place salvage covers over items that could not be removed from the house to lessen damage from the fire, Leewitt reported.

PFPD personnel cleared the scene at 10:42 p.m., Leewitt noted.

In addition to the PFPD, law enforcement and fire personnel from the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, the Red Cross and EMS also responded.

This story was posted on July 24, 2014.