Sand Creek Fire tested by Saturday storms

Troy Hagan, Incident Commander
Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Black

Current situation: On Saturday, the Sand Creek Fire continued smoldering but did not result in measurable growth despite storms that moved over the fire area midday and into the afternoon. Winds fanned smoldering logs in the fire area and resulted in smoke being visible from Pagosa Springs in the afternoon.

Firefighters performing structure evaluations in the Weminuche Valley sought shelter from wind and lightning associated with the storms in the early afternoon, but were able to resume after the weather cleared. Structure evaluations in the Weminuche Valley were finalized on Saturday.

On Sunday, storms are again expected to move over southwest Colorado and produce gusty winds over the fire in the evening. Firefighting resources will monitor the Sand Creek Fire for changes in behavior and be ready to assist with local fire response if any new fire starts occur.

Weather and fuel conditions: Skies are expected to be mostly clear over the fire on Sunday with temperatures in the upper 70s. A strong low pressure weather system will strengthen southwest winds across the area into Monday, with winds expected to be stronger than Saturday gusting up to 25 mph Sunday afternoon into the evening.

Evacuations and closures: A forest closure is in effect around the fire area. The full text and a map of the closure can be found at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/closures/6790/. The Piedra River Trail (596), Little Sand Creek Trail (591), Lower Weminuche Trail (595), Coldwater Trail (597), and Coldwater Stock Trail (598) are all presently open. The Sand Creek Trail (593) and North Ridge Trail (594) are the only trails that are closed at this time. Mosca Road, NFSR 631 is also closed within the fire area. NFSR 631 east of the fire area is restricted to local traffic only. Please see today’s map for the extent of the Mosca Road closures and restrictions.

Smoke outlook: Yesterday’s increased fire activity produced a bit more smoke, but not enough to push air quality out of the ‘good’ category. Air quality is good this morning, and is predicted to remain good into the first part of the week. Smoke from fires in Arizona and Utah continues to push into western/southwestern Colorado, and may be noticed as slight haze. As always, if you smell smoke, you’re breathing smoke. Take actions to avoid smoke exposure especially if you’re sensitive. Information on air quality and a smoke forecast for the area can be found at https://fires.airfire.org/outlooks/SWColorado.

Fire restrictions: Fire danger across the region is rated as extreme. Fire restrictions are in place on the San Juan National Forest. Archuleta County and Hinsdale County have both enacted Stage 1 Fire Restrictions.

Temporary flight restrictions: A temporary flight restriction is in place over the Sand Creek Fire. Wildfires are a No Drone Zone. If you fly, we can’t. Every time a drone is spotted near the fire all aircraft are grounded until we can be sure the drone is clear of the area. For more information, visit http://knowbeforeyoufly.org.

Sand Creek Fire statistics:

Location:  Approximately 20 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Size:  71 acres

Containment:  0 percent

Total Personnel:  198

Cause: Lightning

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This story was posted on June 28, 2020.