Several fires reported following lightning


By Randi Pierce | Staff Writer

Local fire personnel have tended to a number of fires in the area in the last week, with several likely caused by lightning.

On Sunday, the San Juan National Forest responded to five fires, with four being on Pagosa Ranger District land and one being on private land, according to Scott Owen, public affairs officer for the forest.

That, he pointed out, “is actually a pretty high number for one day for one district.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, he explained, all were under control or out, and all were two acres or smaller.

On Monday, forest personnel responded to one fire that reached .8 acres, he explained.

On Tuesday, two more were reported on national forest land, according to Owen.

One, the Turkey Fire, was reported at about 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to Owen. On Wednesday, it was reported as being .2 acres northwest of Pagosa Springs, with crews tending to it.

Another fire called in Tuesday night, located in the area of Willow Draw and Mill Creek Road just east of Pagosa, was called out at .1 acres, Owen explained.

Owen noted the fires were spread throughout the Pagosa Ranger District.

And more fires are expected.

Owen indicated there were a “ton” of lightning strikes in the area Saturday and Sunday.

Tuesday evening’s lightning, he added, was primarily located east of Pagosa Springs, in the area of the Continental Divide.

“When a lightning strike hits, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the tree or the ground’s going to start on fire right away,” he explained. “Sometimes they sit there and smolder while the rain kinda goes over, and then when it dries out and the wind picks up, then it can kind of catch on fire.”

The Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch notes on its Facebook page that lightning can “smolder for days or weeks before finding a receptive fuel and breaking out.”

Owen explained the Forest Service is flying daily reconnaissance  flights over the forest to check for heat in areas where there was lightning.

If they are unable to fly over an area, he added, they will try to check it by ground.

If they think there is a fire, Owen explained, resources are sent in to investigate.

If you see smoke that is concerning and you think hasn’t been reported, Owen suggested, call 911 or dispatch.

Archuleta County Combined Dispatch can be reached at 911 for emergencies or (970) 731-2160 for nonemergencies.

Owen added that the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch is typically really busy.

He also noted that people will call in things such as asphalt plants, taking up resources.

“Make sure that it looks like it’s reasonable,” he said. “If you think it is a fire, call it in and we’ll come out and investigate it.”

Owen also pointed out the fire danger ratings on the San Juan National Forest rose this week.

As of Wednesday, the San Juan National Forest listed fire danger for the Upper Fire Danger Area (which Owen noted includes Pagosa Springs) as moderate and the Lower Fire Danger Area (south of Pagosa Springs) as high.

The Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office also reported that local resources were fighting a structure fire in the Aspen Springs area Sunday evening.

The Pagosa Fire Protection District has not released any information regarding the fire.