A small lightning-caused fire is burning in the Weber Mountain Wilderness Study Area south of Mancos.
The Hilltop Fire on Bureau of Land Management land started Thursday about 6:30 p.m. and has burned one-tenth of an acre in grass, brush and piñon-juniper forest, said BLM incident commander Ian Barrett.
It is “smoldering” on the eastern flank of Weber Mountain with no open flames, he said. After a helicopter flyover Thursday, it was determined that because of very steep, rugged terrain, accessing the fire safely by firefighters is not possible. Additionally, because of the remote location, no immediate threat to structures or resource values existed.
For now, the fire will be allowed to burn for natural ecosystem benefits, including reducing fuel loads, BLM officials said. Improved moisture levels in the forest and expected rains allow for the natural burn.
A Type 4 fire engine has been assigned to the area to oversee the fire as well as to determine whether fire activity increases or begins to move downslope toward private property. BLM also has a helicopter on standby for water drops if needed.
“Natural fire occurrences in this area are largely beneficial by reducing fuel loading and recycling nutrients for new growth,” Barrett said. “With recent weather conditions moderating, the BLM was able to carefully consider all risks and factors and develop a good management plan for this fire.”
A five-person BLM engine crew from Dolores is conducting on-site monitoring.
The fire is currently burning above a cliff band. If it drops below the cliff band, direct action will be taken to put it out using aerial water drops, Barrett said.
The Hilltop Fire is located about 7 miles south of Mancos. Smoke may remain visible as the fire continues to burn.