Crews battling the Burro Fire took a break from their usual firefighting work on Sunday after a storm dumped an inch of rain in the Bear Creek area.
“They are doing what firefighters do, sharpening their saws, cleaning up gear and enjoying the break,” said Andy Lyon, public information officer for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.
No flight to map the fire was conducted on Saturday night because of cloud cover. The size of the fire was officially unchanged at 3,715 acres, and containment remained at 12 percent.
Fire behavior on the Burro and 416 fires was expected to be limited on Sunday, with little or no growth. The probability of ignition was estimated to be less than 10 percent, though stumps, logs and pockets isolated from rainfall continued to burn.
On Saturday, crews benefited from .2 inch of rain, and on Sunday, about an inch. The rain, which fell hardest after midnight Saturday and continued until about 8 a.m. Sunday, was about double the “wetting rain” threshold of a half-inch for timber in a dense tree canopy.
Still, Lyon warned that residents should not become complacent or overly optimistic; hot, dry weather is expected to return this week, bringing life to the fire.
“When we get a rain, it’s OK to breathe a sigh of relief, but we will again be in a dangerous situation,” he said.
He added that he hoped residents would use the weekend’s window of opportunity to do some home mitigation work.
“The next one may not stay on the mountain,” he said.
High temperatures through Friday were expected to be in the 60s, with lows in the 40s, according to incident meteorologist Royce Fontenot. There is a chance of isolated thunderstorms Thursday and Friday.
The Haines Index, which measures the potential for dry, unstable air to contribute to wildfires, was expected to rise through the week. After the rain on Sunday, it was at 3; by comparison, last week during substantial growth of the fire, it was at 6. A Haines Index of 6 means a high potential for an existing fire to become large or exhibit erratic fire behavior, 5 means medium potential, 4 means low potential, and anything less than 4 means very low potential.
On Saturday, crews beat the overnight storm to the punch and finished bulldozing more than 6 miles of containment lines in the key northwestern and southwestern sectors of the fire. On Sunday, the bulldozed roads were muddy and difficult, and crews were “resting in place,” Lyon said.
Bulldozer crews focused their efforts Saturday on the fire’s west side to clear a line southward near the junction of Forest Road 561 and the Gold Run Trailhead.
Crews also extended a bulldozer line that runs northwest roughly paralleling Forest Road 561, west of the more intense flareups near Little Bear Trail.
With the bulldozed lines complete, firefighters will next clean up fire lines and berms of downed timber and other fuels that could jeopardize the lines if the fire reached them, Lyon said. Then, as conditions improve, crews would ignite back-burns to further secure the line and attain containment for the area.
Sunday’s action plan included efforts to keep the fire south and east of Colorado Highway 145, and north of Forest Road 350 near Windy Gap and the West Mancos Trail. Tree fellers, skidders and chippers were assigned to reinforce fire lines and remove flammable fuels along the completed bulldozer line in the northeast sector of the fire.
The fire’s growth of 230 acres on Friday was attributed to high winds related to Hurricane Bud, and the fire continued to creep within the valleys and ridges.
Hurricane Bud also brought rain.
A flash flood watch remained in place until midnight Saturday, with up to an inch of rain forecast for the mountains and a half-inch for the valleys.
The cost of the Burro Fire was at $1.3 million as of Sunday, Lyons said. He noted that removable timber may be salvaged and sold.