Multiple wildfires burning in county

By Randi Pierce and
Avery Martinez
Staff Writer
Multiple fires are being tended to through Archuleta County.
Many of the fires involved multiple agencies including the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Pagosa Fire Protection District (PFPD) and Archuleta County Emergency Management.
To report a new fire on federal lands, please contact the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center at 385-1324.
For more information on the existing fires on public lands, contact the Pagosa Ranger District at 264-2268.
Spruce Fire
The Spruce Fire, found early on July 24, was approximately 10 acres in size as of Wednesday, according to the USFS. It was caused by lightning.
The fire is burning above Spruce Canyon near Mill Creek, about 4 miles east of Pagosa Springs.
On Wednesday afternoon, the USFS reported that a line had been established around the fire perimeter with fire activity still present. Hose has been laid around the fire perimeter and an engine will be suppressing any hot spots along the line and mopping up.
“The Spruce Fire is burning along a ridge top in ponderosa pine and Gambel oak,” a Tuesday press release from the USFS reads.
While one structure was initially threatened, the USFS reported Wednesday that no structures are currently threatened.
Resources involved with battling the Spruce Fire included the USFS, the PFPD and Archuleta County, according to the Tuesday release.
“Six loads of fire retardant were used to prevent the fire from dropping into Spruce Canyon,” the Tuesday press release reads. Each of the loads contained 800 gallons of fire retardant.
A helicopter from Mesa Verde National Park worked the fire through Monday night, according to the press release, and a Juniper Valley hand crew arrived at the fire Tuesday from Buena Vista.
Signs will be posted to alert the public to any fire operations, according to the Tuesday release.
Devil Creek Fire
Lightning caused a fire on Flat Iron Mesa on July 19.
According to a press release from the San Juan National Forest on July 19, the fire is approximately 3 miles north of Chris Mountain on the Pagosa Ranger District.
As of Wednesday morning, the fire was contained to 20 acres and will continue to be monitored, according to Ellis.
“The Devil Creek fire is burning in mixed conifer forest with heavy logging slash and dense fuels,” a July 20 press release from the USFS reads.
Due to “extensive fuels” in the surrounding area, the fire crews used old logging roads and nearby trails to help contain the fire, according to the release.
“Crews have been successful containing the fire to approximately 20 acres,” the press release reads.
Multiple firefighting crews are involved in managing what has been named the Devil Creek Fire.
According to the July 20 press release, fire crews from the USFS, Archuleta County, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and PFPD responded to the flames.
Fire crews will continue working the fire and cooling remaining hot spots, according to the press release.
The fire area was surrounded by roads and the fire is not expected to burn more than 15-20 acres, according to the July 19 release.
“Fire management specialists will be managing the Devil Creek Fire in a way that allows for fire to return to its natural role on the landscape and enhance ecosystem resiliency, diversity, and productivity,” according to the July 19 press release.
Wildland fires managed this way also help to reduce hazardous fuels like vegetation, which can mitigate future wildfire risk and reduce the exposure of wildland firefighter to unsafe conditions, according to the July 19 release.
“Fire management tactics will therefore be indirect and include the use of point protection, as well as leave a minimal impact on the landscape,” the July 19 release reads.
Serviceberry Fire
According to the USFS, as of Wednesday afternoon, the Serviceberry Fire is approximately 25 acres in size and is actively burning in the Winter Hills area, 6 miles southeast of Pagosa Springs.
“The fire is burning in ponderosa pine and Gambel oak where there are areas of heavy dead and down trees that are contributing to visible smoke output,” the Wednesday afternoon press release notes.
Currently there is one engine, a 20-person hand crew and a Type 3 helicopter from Mesa Verde National Park that is being utilized as a shared resource with fires on Southern Ute land.
Smoke from this fire may be visible from County Road 326 and U.S. 84.
Opal Fire
The Opal Fire, according to the USFS, is burning in the South San Juan Wilderness near the Leche Creek Trail at 9,000 feet in elevation in spruce-fir.
Personnel are evaluating objectives and tactics for suppressing this incident after the area received heavy rain Tuesday evening.
Smoke may be visible from County Road 326 and the Upper Blanco.
Castle Creek Road
A fire off of Castle Creek Road, located 15 miles east/southeast of Pagosa Springs, was burning approximately one-tenth of an acre in size as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the USFS.
The fire “is controlled (line has been established around the fire perimeter and the fire has been mopped up). Some smoke may be visible,” a USFS press release notes.
Fire caused by down electric lines
A delivery truck took down a power line in the Pineview Road area shortly after noon on July 17.
Indiana Reed, spokesperson for the La Plata Electric Association (LPEA), told The SUN that a delivery truck pulled a power line down, disrupting power for one customer.
According to PFPD Firefighter Devin Fulton, the downed lines started a fire in the grass near the road, and the resulting flames were burning actively with 15- to 20-inch flame length through heavy grass.
A nearby man was using a tractor with a bucket and a pile of sand to do a home improvement project and began to fight the flames, according to Fulton.
“As soon as we got there we had him stand down,” Fulton said.
When the PFPD arrived on scene the power lines were still live, according to Fulton.
“But they were not sparking or anything like that. LPEA shut them down shortly after,” Fulton said.
The PFPD and county responded with one water tinder, two Type 1 fire engines and county engine 613, Fulton explained, and a line was dug around the fire.
After the line was dug, the fire was fought with water, Fulton explained.
“It burned about half an acre,” Fulton said.

This story was posted on July 26, 2018.