Where there’s smoke there’s (luckily) not fire

Staff Writer

Haze is beginning to be a summer tradition in Pagosa Country, but, this time, the haze is not from a local fire (or because of the newly adopted Archuleta County ordinance allowing additional marijuana businesses).

The haze and smoke currently flowing into Archuleta County is from the Assayii Lake Fire, located on the Navajo Indian Reservation northwest of Gallup, N.M.

That fire began Friday, June 13, and, by Tuesday evening, had grown to more than 12,000 acres.

The fire, which is believed to be human-caused and is under investigation, continues to be fueled by gusty winds.

And while Archuleta County has largely escaped wildfire this season, there have been a few small fires in the area.

Most recently, two fires were each kept to under one-half acre.

On June 10, the Pagosa Fire Protection District responded to a fire in Aspen Springs Unit 3.

That fire was called in at 10:25 p.m. on June 10, with PFPD personnel arriving on scene in 22 minutes. A total of 16 PFPD personnel fought the blaze.

The fire was on a slope, according to Brian Leewitt, assistant fire chief, and burned in oak brush and ponderosa pine. It was contained at approximately one-quarter acre in size.

The fire threatened one structure, Leewitt said, with flames 20 to 30 feet from a residence, but no structures were damaged.

The Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office helped with structure protection, Leewitt added.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

Then, last weekend, crews from the ACSO Division of Emergency Management and U.S. Forest Service fire crews tended to a fire that grew to .34 acres.

The fire was in the area of Williams Creek Reservoir, near the Indian Head Lodge, said incident commander Christina Marquart of the ACSO.

The fire began Saturday, when a camper sought to extinguish his campfire prior to fishing.

According to Marquart, the camper removed the wood from the fire ring so it would not keep burning, but the removed logs were still hot enough to ignite the green grass and pine needles.

The fire, Marquart explained, crept through the grass and torched a large tree.

“If the winds didn’t die down, this fire could have done a lot of damage,” Marquart wrote in an email.

The fire was called out on Monday, June 16.