Burro Fire advances as winds shift; scattered rains possible

Tuesday, July 3, 2018 11:48 AM
Smoke rises from the Burro Fire near Bear Creek Trail. The fire grew an estimated 108 acres since Monday.

Relentless warm, dry weather and low fuel moisture continue to feed the Burro Fire, which has grown 108 acres since Monday.

An infrared flight about 11 p.m. Monday showed the fire was at 4,545 acres. The fire began June 8 in Bear Creek Canyon near the Gold Run Trail. It remains 40 percent contained.

Firefighters working near Burro Mountain and Rough Canyon observed increased fire behavior on Monday because of shifting winds. Much of that increased activity occurred in unburned areas inside the perimeter, resulting in minor expansion of the overall footprint of the fire.

Recent growth occurred to the south toward the ridge southeast of Burro Mountain and across the Aspen Loop Trail.

The section of the fire burning in Rough Canyon on the fire’s northeast edge made a push southwest toward Forest Road 436, also called Hillside Drive. There were also small areas of growth to the north and southwest.

On Monday, two new firefighting crews arrived on the Burro Fire, to relieve two crews that are scheduled to return home soon when their 14-day assignment ends. These experienced personnel will work with the new crews for a few days, to orient them to the terrain and typical fire conditions. About 50 firefighters are working to contain the fire.

At 6 a.m. Tuesday, local federal fire manager Brad Pietruszka took over the Incident Command post of the Burro Fire. He is familiar with the San Juan National Forest, and with the firefighting methods that have been successful in managing the Burro Fire.

The forecast for the area of the Burro Fire shows more cloud cover and a 30-20 percent chance for scattered rain showers on Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Westerly winds will increase during the day.

But the cumulus clouds forming in the afternoons over the local mountains could also bring lightning, which could start additional fires, said meteorologist Ben Moyer.

“It is not looking good – we’re dealing with a very dry weather pattern,” he said. “There is just enough moisture in the upper atmosphere to allow some convection and cumulus clouds that can generate lightning but little rain.”

The models favor a wetter than normal monsoon season for Southwest Colorado.

Monsoon rains occur when subtropical moisture is drawn north from the Gulf of Mexico into the Four Corners area. Moyer said for that to happen, a high pressure system needs to set up better in the southeast U.S.

“Right now, the high pressure in the southeast is sitting too far north to steer subtropical moisture to your area and break up the high-pressure system,” he said.

Forecasters are also tracking the El Niño-La Niña weather phenomenon, which can influence the upcoming winter snowfall.

The pattern in currently neutral, but is expected to move into the El Niño pattern, a heating up of the Equatorial Pacific that favors a winter storm track for southern Colorado.

Roads and trails near the Burro Fire are closed. Fire restrictions remain in effect on the San Juan National Forest and in Montezuma and Dolores counties, and no burning is allowed.

As outdoor recreation increases over the Independence Day holiday week, residents and visitors are reminded to avoid open burning, fireworks or other activities that could create sparks or flame.

Please respect closure barriers on roads and trails in the Burro and 416 fire areas. The Colorado Trail is closed from Molas Pass south to Junction Creek and the Hermosa Creek Wilderness is closed. McPhee Reservoir is open, both to shore fishing and boating. The Dolores River is accessible between Dolores and Rico.