A pre-evacuation notice has been issued for residents north of Dolores as the Plateau Fire, burning 5 miles to the north on the San Juan National Forest, continues to grow.
The notice affects all residents north of County Road V.6, including on County Roads W and 31, said Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin.
“It means get ready to go. Have a plan for everyone in the house, pets and livestock in case the evacuation becomes mandatory,” he said.
Nowlin and deputies on Wednesday afternoon were going door to door to tell residents about the pre-evacuation notice. The Boggy Draw recreation area remained open, but campers and recreationists were being contacted about the threatening wildfire nearby and that they may need to leave.
Montezuma County Emergency Manager Mike Pasquin said preparations were underway to accommodate residents affected by the pre-evacuation order.
“At this point, it is a voluntary, pre-evacuation notice, and we are organizing our efforts,” he said.
Pasquin said that if the evacuation became mandatory, a badge system would track who has been evacuated.
“All evacuees will be tracked and be issued badges,” Pasquin said.
Public notices would notify residents who need evacuee badges. No evacuation centers have been set up yet, he said.
Nowlin said high winds Tuesday night pushed the fire rapidly southeast into the Beaver Canyon area. He said a mandatory evacuation would be considered if the Plateau Fire moved south of House Creek Road.
“Some are leaving already, a lot are getting ready. All my available staff is going door to door,” Nowlin said.
Toni Kelly and her son Sam were preparing to evacuate her home north of Dolores.
“We’re staying calm, but we’re also nervous,” she said Wednesday, as the plume of smoke could be seen in the near distance. “The car is packed up with supplies and pet carriers. We’re trying to track down our horses in the pasture so we can relocate them.”
Over the years, her family has thinned out trees and bushes around their home as a fire break. When they got word of the pre-evacuation order, Kelly and Sam spent the day preparing to leave, filling up the cistern, and setting up sprinklers on the house that will be turned on if they evacuate.
The Dolores-Norwood Road is closed from the House Creek Road to Cottonwood Creek Road. Emergency staff, ranchers with livestock in the area and Kinder Morgan employees were being allowed through.
The House Creek Road, campground and boat ramp are closed, and a half-dozen campers were evacuated from the House Creek Campground about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Alternate routes to Groundhog Reservoir are via the Westfork Road, to Cottonwood Road (FR532), to the Dolores-Norwood Road north of the closed area.
Assistance is available for residents under pre-evacuation orders north of Dolores.
The Cortez Animal Shelter, 2791 E. Main St., is offering free room and board for cats and dogs under the pre-evacuation notice, said supervisor Jennifer Crouse. Space is limited. The shelter’s number is 970-565-4910.
The Montezuma County Fairgrounds, 30100 U.S. 160 east of Cortez, is offering to board horses whose owners are under pre-evacuation orders, said fairgrounds manager Tanner Young. Those interested must provide advance notice by calling 970-759-1795. Young said livestock such as sheep, chickens and goats also can be accommodated.
Montezuma County has set up a call center for information on the Plateau Fire. Anyone with questions may call 970-564-4998 or 970-564-4999. If it is an emergency, call 911.The Sheriff’s Office has set up an Emergency Operations Center. Contact Vicki Shaffer or Mike Pasquin there.The Dolores School District RE-4A is coordinating with the San Juan National Forest and fire officials to set up a Plateau Fire command center at the school gymnasium, said school Superintendent Phil Kasper. A large influx of firefighters and support staff was expected to arrive in Dolores and at the school command center in the coming days.Road block ashWednesday afternoon, smoke from the fire was thick along the Dolores-Norwood Road and at the road block at the House Creek intersection.
Ash from the fire fell as sheriff deputies met with fire officials and turned around cars at the closure. Livestock operators were collecting their cattle from farther up the Dolores-Norwood Road, officials said.
“We’re asking the public to respect the closures, and be ready, get essentials packed up in case an evacuation is needed,” said deputy Tyson Cox.
A crew from Tri-State Electric Co-op was allowed through to determine how far the fire was from nearby electric lines. A linesman said the power lines were not in immediate danger.
“During our reconnaissance, we saw the fire line not far from here,” he said. “It was burning pretty strong in a canyon, and torching some trees.”