The Plateau Fire burning north of Dolores has tripled in size since Monday, in part because of back-burning efforts by firefighters.
The fire, in Plateau Canyon north of McPhee Reservoir, has grown to 3,400 acres as of Wednesday evening, up from 2,800 acres on Tuesday and 1,000 acres on Monday.
The fire was 5 percent contained, and containment was estimated for Aug. 15.
Back-burn operations continued on the east side of East Fork of the Plateau drainage out to Forest Service Roads 524A and south to Anderson Reservoir, according to the latest update Wednesday from public information officer Rob Kopack. Burn operations also continued on the west side from the canyon rim west to FSR 523A1 and south to Trimble Reservoir, Kopack said on InciWeb. Crews were patrolling the north end of the fire along FSR 514.
The fire was expected to be active on Thursday afternoon, if the forecast 30 mph gusts are received. Fire activity in the next 72 hours was expected to be moderate.
Weather conditions included temperatures in the 80s. Dry thunderstorms and gusty winds were forecast for Thursday.
The West Guard Fire, west of the Glade Guard station has burned 1,405 acres, up from 100 acres last week. It was 80 percent contained on Tuesday.
The fires are about 13 miles apart and burning on the San Juan National Forest in Dolores County. They are being managed for full suppression, said Dolores District Ranger Derek Padilla.
A combined 126 personnel from multiple agencies are working on the fires, Kopack said. Equipment includes five engines, a water tender, a helicopter, and a heavy-duty brushcutter and skidgeon.
“There has been quite a bit of burnout operations in Plateau over the last several days,” Kopack said. “ Plateau has got more burnout and work ahead.”
He said West Guard crews are mopping up and monitoring the fire, and felling hazardous trees. The fire was described as “smoldering.”
The two lightning-caused wildfires were discovered July 22 north of Dolores on the San Juan National Forest.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an air quality advisory until 9 a.m. Thursday for portions of west-central and Southwest Colorado, including Garfield, Mesa, Delta, Montrose, Ouray, San Miguel, Dolores, San Juan, Montezuma, La Plata, and western Eagle and southern Rio Blanco counties. Towns and cities include Cortez, Dolores, Dove Creek, Mancos and Durango.
The most vulnerable residents are those with heart disease or respiratory illnesses and the very young and the elderly. In general, if visibility is less than 5 miles in your neighborhood because of smoke, air quality has reached unhealthy levels, the health department said.