Crews struggle to contain Burro Fire; CPW closes some areas

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 10:41 PM
The Burro Fire grew to about 1,000 acres by Sunday afternoon, then to 2,600 acres by Tuesday. It is burning in a remote area of the San Juan National Forest about 23 miles northeast of Dolores.
The Burro Fire is burning in the Bear Creek drainage of the San Juan National Forest 23 miles northeast of Dolores.

The Burro Fire in the Bear Creek drainage of the Dolores Valley continued to grow on Tuesday, but is not threatening any structure. Also on Tuesday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced that some State Wildlife Areas in Southwest Colorado have closed to all public access.

In Dolores and Montezuma counties, Lone Dome and Fish Creek State Wildlife Areas were closed until further notice, according to a news release from CPW public information officer Joe Lewandowski.

Summit, Puett, Narraguinnep, Totten, Twin Spruce, Dolores River, Joe Moore and Ground Hog Reservoir state wildlife areas will remain open. Mancos State Park in Montezuma County also will remain open.

In and near Durango, the Bodo, Perins Peak, Haviland Lake, Devil Creek and Williams Creek state wildlife areas are closed. In Bayfield, the Lion’s Club shooting range, managed by CPW, is also closed.

Echo Canyon State Wildlife Area in Archuleta County and Pastorious State Wildlife Area in La Plata County will remain open, the news release said. Navajo State Park, which offers campsites, hiking, fishing and other water recreation, also will remain open.

The San Juan National Forest closed indefinitely on Tuesday for the first time since it became a national forest more than 100 years ago.

As of June 12, the Burro Fire east of Dolores scorched almost 2,684 acres in the forest, and the 416 Fire north of Durango has scorched more than 23,000 acres around the Hermosa Creek drainage.

“(The Burro Fire) is a very terrain-driven fire, and is burning wherever it wants to go in mixed conifer and steep conditions,” he said.

Five fire crews totaling 168 firefighters are on the scene, as well as an engine and two bulldozers, used to establish a fire line. Fire suppression is the goal.

The fire is zero percent contained. Bulldozers and hand crews are working to create a fire break on the fire’s south side off Forest Road 561.

Patrick Seekins, of the Dolores Ranger District, said a containment line on the west side also was a priority to prevent the fire from traveling down Bear Creek toward private property and residences at Colorado Highway 145.

However, due to the steep, thick forests, fire crews are struggling to contain the fire on its western flank.

“There are not a lot of good options. We are scouting on foot and by air for the best location to dive into Bear Creek with hand crews,” Seekins said. “It is a difficult piece of terrain.”

The fire is spreading north, west and southeast in and out of the Bear Creek and Little Bear Creek drainages. To the north, it has reached Hillside Drive and Grindstone Road, and has also reached a previously logged area where it has slowed down. Fire behavior was described as moderate on Tuesday morning, and winds were calmer, Seekins said. Typically, it surges in mid-afternoon.

The fire is being fought indirectly until it reaches flatter terrain where firefighters can safely engage it head-on. Officials also want to prevent it from moving southeast toward Windy Gap, where there are very thick timber stands.

Fire crews have been dispatched to assess private property and structures at Colorado 145 and the Bear Creek and Roaring Fork trailheads to determine strategies on how to best protect them. The Dolores Fire Department and Montezuma County sheriff are helping in that effort.

“We have adequate resources right now, have a good anchor point, and are developing a solid plan for containment,” Seekins said.

Scattered thunderstorms are expected for Friday in the area of the Burro Fire, but it could also bring lightning that could trigger additional fires, officials said.

No cause of either the Burro or 46 fires has been determined.

At a glance

The Burro Fire, named for a nearby mountain, started June 8 and burns 5 miles up the Bear Creek drainage east of Dolores.

Size of fire: 2,684 acres, with no containment as of Tuesday morning. It is expected to burn for weeks.

What’s next: Create containment lines on the west and south sides of the fire to keep it from the Haycamp and Transfer Park areas. A bulldozer crew worked Monday to clear a line along with hand crews.

Closures: The San Juan National Forest is closed to recreation, effective Tuesday.

Firefighters: Managed by a Type 1 crew in Dolores along with the larger 416 Fire north of Durango. About 168 personnel are battling the Burro Fire.

Weather: Highs in the mid-80s through Thursday. Chance of rain this weekend.

The Journal