The Doe Canyon Fire southeast of Dove Creek has more than doubled in size since the weekend, but it continues to burn at low intensity.
By Tuesday, the fire had scorched 210 acres in the San Juan National Forest east of the Lower Dolores River Canyon, up from 90 acres on Monday. It is 7% contained.
A swath of the national forest near the fire has been closed. The closure includes all land bounded by Forest Road 504 at the intersections with Forest Road 506 and all roads including 506A, 506B, 506E, 506M, 506K1 and 215.
The fire is at 7,800 feet elevation and was reportedly started by lightning June 18. It was spotted June 20 and burns at the head of Doe Canyon.
Because of good fuel moisture, the fire is mostly being allowed to burn to reduce litter and understory within an area bounded by roads. It is burning in Gambel oak and ponderosa pines that have significant beetle mortality. About 16 firefighters are on scene, down from 21 earlier this week. They were working to prevent it from moving into a timber sale area and from reaching the Dolores River.
“We’re fortunate that conditions are right this year so that we can mostly monitor this fire and allow fire to play its natural role in the ecosystem,” says Incident Commander Brad Pietruszka of the Bureau of Land Management. “The fire is low-intensity and is burning almost exclusively on the surface.”
He said by reducing fuel loads now, the fire decreases the likelihood of high-intensity crown fires when conditions become hot, dry and windy.
Surface fires consume forest litter such as pine cones, needles, and dead trees and limbs, as well as smaller live trees and shrubs. The thinning provides open areas for wildlife and decreases competition for water and nutrients among the remaining trees.
Burnout operations and brush mowers were being used to keep the fire from fencelines around grazing allotments and the timber sale. Full containment is estimated by July 15.
Firefighters are holding the fire within control features, according to InciWeb, a wildfire incident information system. Crews are controlling the fire’s spread by using low-intensity burnout operations.
A warming and drying trend will support continued low-intensity fire spread toward Forest Service Road 504. Relative humidity is expected to be in the teens, with wind gusts reaching 23 mph.
Lake Canyon prescribed fire
A few miles north of the Doe Canyon Fire, 50 firefighters and a helicopter using aerial ignition completed a 2,700-acre burn Monday in the Lake Canyon area.
Smoke was visible from Dove Creek, U.S. 491 and other points. Smoke settled in valleys overnight to the south along the Dolores River Canyon near Bradfield Bridge.
The area will be monitored this week to ensure the fire stays within a defined area. Firefighters assisted with the Doe Canyon Fire.
The Doe Canyon Fire closure order may remain in effect until July 8. Roadside signs will be posted.