More than 200 firefighters are battling the Burro Fire south of Rico, which is in its seventh day and has burned 3,400 acres in and around the Bear Creek drainage.
Because of the heavily timbered, steep terrain, containment has been a challenge and remains at zero percent. An incoming storm is expected to bring some rain, but it also is expected to bring erratic winds and dry lightning that could expand the fire.
Efforts continued Thursday to establish a containment line on the south and west sides of the fire, according to officials. A bulldozer and hand crews are clearing a line, and portable water tanks, hoses and pumps are being used to deliver water to douse spot fires that jump the fire line.
Stopping the fire from spreading west down Bear Creek Canyon is a priority to protect private property, residences and a campground along Colorado Highway 145. Firefighters are working with property owners to defend against the fire if it travels west toward the highway.
The fire grew by about 500 acres Wednesday, spreading into the Rough Canyon area to the northeast and toward Windy Gap, said Andy Lyons, public information officer for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.
The fire has also jumped Forest Service Road 561 on the south, where firefighters have been working to establish a containment line to prevent it from spreading that direction.
The area of the fire is under a red flag alert due to high winds expected today. Wind gusts of up to 40 mph are possible with the storm.
Rain is expected in the next few days could help slow the fire. But the storm front’s erratic winds could expand the fire, and lightning could start new fires in the dry forest suffering from exceptional drought, Lyons said.
“What happens next really depends on the weather and rain amounts in the next few days,” he said. “We could see the fire get pushed into additional areas due to gusty winds associated with the front.”
The fire is moving northeast and southeast, with possible spot fires toward the west, according to infrared mapping conducted by airplane Wednesday night. Spot fires to the east are near Indian Trail Ridge.
On the other side of the ridge, the 416 Fire continues to rage. It has burned 29,000 acres and is 15 percent contained. Both fires are creeping toward each other, and are about 6 miles apart.
Indian Trail Ridge is somewhat of a natural firebreak because it is near the timberline and has less timber, but embers from the Burro Fire could sail over the ridge and light fires in the heavily wooded Hermosa drainage, Lyons said.
The Burro Fire behavior is described as short crown runs, torching, short-range spotting and flanking. It is burning 14 miles south of Rico, 5 miles east of Colorado Highway 145, and 23 miles east of Dolores.
Estimated containment is expected in mid-July. No structures have been lost to the fire. The estimated cost to fight it is at $450,000, Lyons said.