Plateau Fire north of Dolores grows to 4,450 acres

Monday, Aug. 6, 2018 8:39 PM
The sun sets over McPhee Reservoir on Wednesday. The San Juan National Forest on Thursday announced that it was expanding its road closures east to the Dolores-Norwood Road and south to House Creek Road at McPhee.
The Plateau Fire, photographed Wednesday. The fire grew to 4,000 acres on Thursday.

The Plateau Fire, burning about 13 miles northeast of Dolores, grew to 4,450 acres by Saturday, and the San Juan National Forest on Thursday announced that it was expanding its road closures east to the Dolores-Norwood Road and south to House Creek Road, near the eastern dock of McPhee Reservoir.

Access to the lake shore from McPhee is allowed, and the northern and western closure boundaries were unchanged.

Hot, dry and breezy fire weather returned to the Plateau area on Saturday, causing an increase in the ignition of single and multiple trees. Firefighters planned to hold and patrol the north end of fire along Forest Service Road 514.

Crews aided by a helicopter continued to conduct back burns and to prepare additional areas for controlled burns along the east side of East Fork of the Plateau drainage out to FSR 524A and south to Anderson Reservoir. Crews also prepared for burns on the west side from canyon rim west to FSR 523A1 and south to Trimble Reservoir.

Also on Thursday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an air quality advisory until 9 a.m. Friday for portions of west-central and Southwest Colorado, including Montezuma, Dolores and La Plata counties. The advisory was discontinued on Friday, and air quality was rated as moderate or good on Saturday and Sunday.

The smoke originates from fires in New Mexico and Southwest Colorado, the San Juan National Forest said. The most vulnerable residents are those with heart disease or respiratory illnesses and the very young and the elderly.

Apparently caused by a lightning strike on July 22, the Plateau Fire is burning conifer fuels in the steep and rugged terrain of Plateau Canyon.

On Thursday, calmer winds and higher humidity helped moderate fire behavior, said public information officer Rob Kopack.

The fire was 15 percent contained as of Thursday, and full containment was estimated for Aug. 15.

On Wednesday, firefighters kept the fire’s growth in check at 3,415 acres. Crews spent the day igniting controlled burns along roads to create and reinforce control lines.

On Tuesday, the fire grew to 2,800 acres as low humidity and high winds combined to push the fire into a 2-mile run. Firefighters were able to hold the fire at Forest Service Road 524.

The Plateau Fire was discovered on July 22 after smoke was reported near Salter Y. By the next night, it grew to 1,000 acres, though much of the fire’s early growth was attributed to controlled burns.

There is no private land in the Plateau Fire burn area.

About 131 personnel are working on the Plateau and West Guard fires, which are about 13 miles apart and burning on the San Juan National Forest in Dolores County. Both are being managed for full suppression, and equipment has included five engines, a water tender, a helicopter, and a heavy-duty brushcutter and skidgeon.

The West Guard Fire, west of the Glade Guard station northwest of Dolores, has scorched 1,405 acres, up from 100 acres last week. It was 80 percent contained on Thursday.

Kopack said West Guard crews were mopping up and monitoring the fire, and felling hazardous trees. The fire was described as “smoldering.”

The West Guard Fire was discovered on July 22 by a helicopter working on the Plateau Fire, a press release from the San Juan National Forest said.