A brush fire Friday along U.S. Highway 160/491 south of Cortez threatened several homes, but no structures were lost, fire officials said.
The cause of the fire was unknown late Friday, but appeared to start at the highway.
By 8 p.m. the fire was controlled and has a good perimeter around it, said Cortez Fire Protection District Chief Jay Balfour. It had grown to about 30 acres.
“The fire behavior was erratic, and the winds pushed into some heavy brush, but we got a handle on it,” he said.
Fire crews conducted successful structure protection on several nearby homes, Balfour said.
Other crews dug hand lines and negotiated through rough ravines and a tangle of vegetation and trees. Two fire hydrants nearby provided water that was shuttled to the fire line.
Earlier, 30-foot high flames could be seen, and neighbors looked on with concern.
“Thankfully, everybody is alright,” said neighbor Sharon Palmer.
Local rancher Todd Ehlert saw the initial smoke and jumped on his ATV to investigate.
“It was bad. Then a lot of firetrucks arrived, and I opened all the gates for them,” he said. “They did their job protecting the homes.”
The fire sparked about 3:30 p.m. and quickly spread in dry vegetation. It appeared to start near the highway and came within yards of a home. Balfour said the fire area will be patrolled to prevent a flare up, and the point of origin is being investigated.
A portion of U.S. 160/491 was closed, the Colorado Department of Transportation said. By 6 p.m. traffic was moving normally.
By 5 p.m., the fire had grown to 2 or 3 acres, Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin said.
The fire began near mile marker 33, Nowlin said. Winds were blowing the smoke east.
Multiple local agencies responded to the fire, including Cortez Fire Protection District, Dolores Fire Department, Mancos Fire Department, Lewis-Arriola Fire Protection District, Ute Mountain Fire Department, the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Land Management, and Southwest Health System ambulance.
Lisa Schwantes, spokeswoman for CDOT, said the fire appeared to start in a ditch at mile marker 33.5, about a mile south of the turnoff for the Cortez Municipal Airport.
The highway initially was closed in both directions, but by 4 p.m. motorists were allowed through in one lane, Schwantes said.
Jonathan Romeo contributed to this article.