Rains put Burro Fire to sleep for now

Friday, July 6, 2018 1:47 PM
“Heavy dead and down” trees near the Burro Fire. Firefighters are working to clear away these dead trees and branches to reduce the amount of potential fuel along containment lines.
Firefighters buck a felled tree, cutting it into logs that will burn more quickly than a full-size log tree. Bucking is one of several techniques fire crews are using to reduce potential fuel around the Burro Fire.
Firefighters walk through a finished section of a fuel break line in the area of the Burro Fire.
Fire activity on June 30 of the Burro Fire.

Rains have put the Burro Fire down for a nap, allowing firefighters to get some chores done reinforcing containment lines.

About .1 inch of rain fell on the fire Thursday night, said public information officer Kathy Russell.

“It was less than what fell in local towns, but enough to put the fire to sleep,” she said. “The fire has calmed down and stopped growing for now.”

The fire remains at 4,593 acres, and fire behavior is minimal because of recent moisture, cooler temperatures and higher humidity, Russell said. Containment remains at 40 percent.

Cloud cover prevented an infrared mapping flight on Thursday, and because of reduced fire behavior, flights might not be necessary. That resource can be diverted to new or more pressing fires.

Although the storm put the fire down, its lightning forced firefighters to retreat to safer areas Thursday evening, Russell said.

A key contingency fire line has been completed to the northwest near the Morrison Trail to stop the fire if it approaches Colorado Highway 145 and the homes there. The fire is 4 miles from the highway, and has been creeping in that direction.

Russell said the San Juan Hotshots removed dead fuel and snags from a 30-foot-wide swath of the northwest fire line, but that the line wasn’t cleared down to the soil.

The northwest fire line ties in to a bulldozed containment along the southwest edge of Bear Canyon that has been effective in keeping the fire in the canyon.

“The slumbering fire is opening up opportunity for firefighters to focus on reinforcing and widening fire lines,” Russell said.

Small controlled burnouts along the bulldozed fire line have reduced fuels that lie in the path of the fire.

The weather forecast for the next several days calls for scattered showers in the area, but the fire remains a threat.

“One shower is not enough to make a big difference. We need repetitive rains,” Russell said. “We are not out of the woods, and are still in an overall drought.”

About 45 firefighters are working on the Burro Fire, but the number is expected to drop as some crews reach their 14- to 21-day limit. Fresh crews arrived this week and were briefed on the terrain and firefighting strategy.

The catering service and field kitchen have ended their work. Firefighter crews are shopping locally for groceries then cooking their own meals in camp, Russell said. She has been regularly visiting businesses and Dolores Town Hall to update them on the fire.

Forest and fire officials are reminding the public that the Stage 2 restrictions, which prohibit campfires in the San Juan National Forest, are still in place.

Closures around the Burro Fire area also are in place, including Bear Creek Trail, Morrison Trail, Hillside Drive, Roaring Fork, Scotch Creek, Sharkstooth Trail, a section of the Colorado Trail, and several smaller roads and trails in the area.

The cause of the fire is undetermined and is still under investigation. Fire investigators from the national forest and the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office visited the fire’s point of origin near the Gold Run trail in late June.

Investigation update“They hiked down from the canyon edge and scoured the area around the point of origin for clues,” said Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin. “They are specifically trained to investigate wildfire causes.”

Nowlin said the investigation team has conducted many interviews from campers and trail users who were in the vicinity of the Gold Run, Hillside, and Bear Creek areas when the fire broke out June 8.

“They are tracking down everyone who was there,” he said.

He said no lightning was reported in the area at the time the fire was spotted. The results of the investigation likely won’t be available for months, Nowlin said.