A number of fires burning across Southwest Colorado on Wednesday led to a road closure, and several homeowners were told they may have to leave their homes.
The Vallecito Fire, which is burning in heavy, dead fuels and dormant Gambel oak and aspen in the Jack Creek drainage west of the lake, was estimated at 200 to 250 acres at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Upper Pine Fire Protection District held a community meeting Wednesday evening at the Outpost near the Schank House.
Ann Bond, public information specialist with the U.S. Forest Service, said several homes in the Lake Vista Estates subdivision were directly threatened earlier Wednesday afternoon. Eighteen homes and several outbuildings in Lake Vista Estates were put on pre-evacuation notice, she said.
Northwest winds were pushing the fire downslope toward the subdivision.
A red-flag warning that was in effect until 8 p.m. Wednesday was prohibiting direct air or ground attack. The Grand Junction Office of the National Weather Service is forecasting continuing dry conditions for the next 10 to 12 days.
“We have not been able to fly the air tankers because of winds,” said Justin Moore, assistant manager of the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center. “It was even too dangerous for the dozers to go in to create fire breaks.”
The biggest danger, said incident commander Dennis Fogel with Durango Helitack, are dead trees, or snags, left from the Missionary Ridge Fire that pose threats to people.
Three 20-member crews were scheduled to camp overnight at the Forest Service work center at the north end of the reservoir, Fogel said.
Four engines and their crews were expected to spend the night at the fire scene, he said.
The dispatch center called in water tenders and other structural fire equipment from Durango Fire & Rescue Authority and the Upper Pine and Los Pinos fire protection districts to be on hand should the fire move into the subdivision. They are staging at Doc's Marina.
Meanwhile, the Little East Fire was reported about 4 p.m. Wednesday near the La Plata-Montezuma county line near the area of this year's Weber Fire. It had burned about 100 acres by Wednesday evening. The U.S. Forest Service ordered the evacuation of 30 to 40 homes in the area, Bond said.
Cherry Creek Road (County Road 105) was closed from U.S. Highway 160 south and north of County Road 116 on Wednesday evening because of the fire, and La Plata County Sheriff's Office deputies were patrolling the area to warn residents and assist with traffic, according to a news release from the county.
Water trucks from La Plata County Road and Bridge Department continue to be on standby to help haul water to the location, which is in a difficult-to-reach and remote area.
Similar efforts are taking place in Montezuma County.
Motorists are asked to drive carefully as smoke may decrease visibility. Smoke may be visible around La Plata County today.
Another small fire, reported at a quarter to half an acre, was reported in the South Hope Creek drainage 10 miles northwest of Hermosa late Wednesday afternoon. It is in the San Juan National Forest, and no further information was available Wednesday night.
Several other small fires were reported Wednesday around the Dolores area, as well.
The causes of the fires are undetermined at this time.
“This is supposed to be the quiet season for fires,” Moore said, “but this seems like June.”