The Doe Canyon Fire southeast of Dove Creek grew this week, but at low intensity.
By Tuesday, the fire had scorched 210 acres in the San Juan National Forest east of the Lower Dolores River Canyon. It is 8%contained on the section where full suppression is the goal.
A swath of the national forest near the fire has been closed. The closure includes all land bounded by Forest Road 504 at intersections with Forest Road 506 and all roads including 506A, 506B, 506E, 506M, 506K1 and 215. Road 504 remains open, but delays are possible from smoke and fire equipment.
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. It is moving north and east.
Because of good fuel moisture, the fire is mostly being allowed to burn to reduce litter and understory within a 2,000-acre area bounded by roads. It is burning in Gambel oak and ponderosa pine forests with significant beetle mortality.
About 56 firefighters are on scene, up from 21 earlier this week. They were working to prevent the fire from moving into a timber sale area and from reaching the Dolores River and a nearby timber sale.
“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,” said incident commander Brad Pietruszka. “The fire is low-intensity and is burning almost exclusively on the surface.”
He said by reducing fuel loads now, it decreases the likelihood of high-intensity crown fires when conditions become hot, dry and windy again.
Surface fires consume forest litter like pine cones, needles, and dead trees and limbs, as well as some smaller live trees and shrubs. This 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. Containment is estimated by July 15.
Firefighters are managing the fire to burn within control features, according to InciWeb, a wildfire incident information system. Crews are controlling the fire’s spread by using low-intensity burnout operations, and aerial ignitions using a drone. The total anticipated burn area within established boundaries is approximately 2,000 acres.
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 fireA 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. Highway 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 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.