Burro Fire grows; firefighters conduct burnout operations

Saturday, June 30, 2018 12:28 PM
Smoke over the Burro Fire camp on Thursday morning.
The Burro Fire grew by 166 acres on Friday.
Public Information Officer Andy Lyon created an image comparing the smoke plumes from the 416 and Burro Fires on Saturday morning.

The Burro Fire grew by about 166 acres on Friday, reaching a total of 4,302 acres in the Bear Creek Canyon area.

On Friday, the fire showed growth along its northwestern, southwestern, southeastern and eastern borders, according to the log from an infrared mapping flight conducted at 11:07 p.m. The infrared map showed areas of intense heat near bulldozer lines in the vicinity of West Mancos Road, Aspen Loop Trail and the intersection of Grindstone Loop Trail and Colorado Trail.

On Friday afternoon, the Montezuma and Dolores County sheriff’s offices issued a dense smoke advisory that lasted through 10 a.m. Saturday due to a giant plume of smoke over the San Juan Mountains and a smoky haze that lingered in Dolores and Cortez. Public information officer Andy Lyon said the smoke was mostly from the 416 Fire, which grew about 5,000 acres Friday.

The remaining 27 firefighters combating the Burro Fire conducted “burnout” operations along the bulldozer line on Thursday and Friday, gradually lighting trees and other fuel along the line so that the approaching fire has less to burn.

Lyon said he expected a pause in the burnout operations for Saturday, since the fire had reached a string of aspens near the bulldozer line, which were expected to slow it down for some time.

“They’re essentially acting as a brake for the fire,” he said. “We probably won’t have to do any burnouts until it burns through those aspens.”

In a Saturday morning news release, incident commander John Norton-Jensen said additional firefighting resources will be called in if necessary.

“Everything has dried out in the past week and a half and we’re seeing more and more fire activity each day, but our fire lines are in place and we have a plan to manage it,” he said in the release.

Lyon said the fire is continuing to move slowly toward Colorado Highway 145, but he doesn’t expect it to reach the road before the monsoon begins.

As of Saturday morning, the National Weather Service’s San Juan Mountain forecast predicted clear weather with temperatures in the 70s throughout the weekend, but Lyon said chances of rain will start increasing on Tuesday.

The Colorado Trail remains closed from Molas Pass south to Junction Creek. The Hermosa Creek Wilderness is also closed. McPhee Reservoir remains open and the Dolores River is still accessible between Dolores and Rico.