Four fires burning on Southern Ute land

By Avery Martinez
Staff Writer
Southern Ute and other firefighters are battling four different fires on tribal land.
Lightning caused all of the fires, Engine Capt. Clayton Rizzi told The SUN.
The biggest fire, still currently burning, is called the Montezuma Creek Fire and is between four to 10 acres in size, Rizzi explained.
As of 2:50 p.m. the Montezuma Creek Fire was under little containment, mainly due to the steep slopes on which the fire is burning, Rizzi said.
The fire is approximately 4.5 to 5 miles north of Juanita Junction and is burning on the east side of County Road 500 (Trujillo Road), Rizzi explained.
In a press release on the Southern Ute website, firefighters responded to several reports of smoke in the southeast corner of the Southern Ute Reservation yesterday afternoon.
“Four fires were located and resources attacking the fires included hand crews, engines, a heavy air tanker, a single engine air tanker (SEAT) and a Type 3 helicopter,” the release states.
The Montezuma Creek Fire, the largest of the four, was the main focus of the aircraft, the release explained.
“Hand crews and engines worked on the three smaller fires and were able to make good progress,” reads the release.
Rich Gustafson, the fire management officer for the Southern Ute Agency and Bureau of Indian Affairs, was quoted in the press release as saying “Our focus is on containing the existing fires and responding rapidly to new fires.”
The release reads, “As of [6:00 a.m.] on June 5, 102 personnel were assigned to fires, including two engines, three hand crews, one dozer and one Type 3 helicopter.”
According to the press release, which was released at 10:05 a.m., the three smaller fires are less than an acre in size.
The fires are named the Kerns, Madrid and Round Meadow fires, the release notes.
According to Rizzi, the Kerns Fire is now two acres in size and there is currently “hose all the way around it.”
That fire is approximately 3 miles south of Altura and west of County Road 700, Rizzi described.
“They are hitting that one very well,” Rizzi said.
Rizzi said that should be taken care of by the end of the day shift.
The Madrid Fire, according to Rizzi, is in controlled status.
That fire is approximately 2 miles southeast of Juanita Junction, Rizzi indicated.
On June 3, according to the release, a lightning storm went through the area and resulted in an estimated 200 lightning strikes hitting the east side of the reservation.
“With a forecasted warm and dry weather combined with critically dry fuel moistures, a reserve force of firefighters will be available for any new fire starts located,” the release states.
As of 2:50 p.m., Rizzi noted there were no new fires, but there could be some holdover fires.
avery@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on June 5, 2018.