Two lightning-caused wildfires discovered Sunday north of Dolores on the San Juan National Forest have grown and have triggered area closures.
The Plateau and West Guard Fires are being managed for full suppression, said Dolores District Ranger Derek Padilla. They are about 13 miles apart and burning in Dolores County.
The Plateau Fire grew from 5 acres on Monday to 27 acres Tuesday. It is burning in steep, rugged terrain in Plateau Canyon, a tributary of McPhee Reservoir. The fire is about 14 miles northeast of Dolores and is burning in mixed conifer.
Because the steep terrain is unsafe for firefighters, officials are trying to keep it off the rim, where there is private property.
The West Guard Fire is burning 5 miles west of Benchmark Lookout and 1.5 miles west of the Glade Guard Station, an overnight Forest Service recreation rental. Since discovered Sunday, it has grown to 100 acres, in part because of burnout operations that are being conducted to secure the perimeter along Forest Road 512. The fire is burning in ponderosa pine, oak litter and grass.
A Type 3 team with four engines and a 10-person fire module is fighting both fires. Closure areas around the Plateau Fire Complex on the Dolores Ranger District have been established and are effective immediately. The area is now closed to all public entry, for public and firefighter safety.
Forest closuresThe national forest has closed ares south of Forest Service Road 514 bounded by Forest Road 523, as well as land east of Forest Road 523 to the top of the east rim of Plateau Creek and south of the rim above McPhee Reservoir. Also closed is the area in the Plateau Creek and Dry Canyon watersheds that include, being upon any portion of Forest Road 523, Forest Road 523A or Forest Road 247.
Forest Road 514 remains open. Access to the closure area is limited ¼ mile from the shore of McPhee Reservoir.
The closures for the Burro Fire and 416 Fires are also still in place.
Because of recent rains, both fires have low to moderate fire behavior, and firefighters expect that they can be contained soon.
“Right now, they are slowly creeping along,” Padilla said Monday. As of Tuesday, there was no containment.
There is always the potential they could grow faster if fire conditions worsen with hot, dry weather and downdraft winds. The fire season is not over, Padilla said.
On-site firefighting resources include U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management crews.
On Monday, Padilla said additional fire crews and engines have been ordered to fight the fires. The nation is under a Level 4 fire planning stage, so demand for limited federal firefighting resources is increasing.
Padilla said a direct fight is happening against the West Guard Fire, which is on flatter terrain.
Firefighters at the Plateau Fire were focusing patrols, scouting and prepping operations along Forest Roads 514, 523, 524 and 525. The West Glade Fire will see firefighter operations along Forest Roads 514, 512 and 501.
The public is asked to respect signage related to road closures for their personal safety. Closures for the Burro Fire, which is at 80 percent containment, continue to be in effect.
The Plateau Creek Fire could grow to more than 100 acres because of the inaccessible terrain, Padilla said. The fire was spotted by a citizen on Sunday and during a helicopter flyover the same day, the West Guard Fire was discovered. Both fires were started by lightning three to four days ago, officials said.
Smoke is expected to be visible near Salter Y on along Forest Road 514, Dolores River Overlook and Dove Creek. As the fires progress, there is a chance that smoke may settle at night in Dolores, Dolores River Canyon near the overlook and the surrounding area. To report a fire on federal lands, contact the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center at 970-385-1324.
For more information, contact the Dolores Ranger District at 970-882-7296.