At the recommendation of the sheriff and local fire chiefs, Montezuma County commissioners lifted the county-wide fire ban as of Aug. 15.
“All the fire chiefs are in agreement to lift the ban,” Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin said at Monday’s county commission meeting.
Nowlin reported that while it is still dry in the southern portion of the county, moisture levels are good thanks to the recent monsoonal rains. Cortez Fire Chief Jeff Vandevoorde said farmers have been requesting the ban be lifted so they can burn fields.
Two wildfires burned a total of 2,300 acres in the area this summer.
The Sage Hen fire near McPhee Reservoir on June 18 burned about 200 acres of private, county, and federal lands and cost $292,618 to fight, according to the U.S. Forest Service.A Montezuma County sheriff report states that a property owner accidentally started the fire during a controlled burn of weeds on his property on County Road X.
The fire quickly got out of control, damaging a neighbor’s property and spreading to the San Juan National Forest. Dispatch was not notified before the controlled burn, as required by Montezuma County ordinance, officials reported.
The county’s costs came to $12,500, of which $10,000 will be reimbursed by the state, officials reported.
Lightning started a small wildfire on June 21 in the Long Draw area south of Forest Road 532 east of the Dolores-Norwood Road in Dolores County. The fire grew to 2,142 acres after Dolores District Ranger Derek Padilla and fire manager Patrick Seekins decided to accelerate the fire in order to reduce built-up vegetative litter on the forest floor.To help the fire burn as planned, the Forest Service started fires in the contained area, which was bounded by roads on the perimeter.
According to the Forest Service, a managed fire such as the one at Long Draw may cost $150 per acre to manage, while a prescribed burn may cost $500 per acre. The cost of mechanically reducing built-up fuels was estimated at $500 to $1,000 per acre.