Firefighters attack Air Park Fire

Nearly 150 residents remain under pre-evacuation orders

A lightning-caused fire that broke out Sunday had grown to 514 acres by Monday morning.

The fire burned through the night but did not make any significant runs,” a news release from the Durango Interagency Dispatch Center stated. “A very small amount of precipitation fell over the fire last night. The fire has been backing down the ridge towards Basin Creek. There is no containment on the fire.”

About 50 firefighters are on the fire and more crews are expected to arrive throughout the day. Air resources on the fire include one heavy air tanker and two single-engine air tankers.

Firefighters will be working to keep the fire west of La Posta Road, south of Nighthorse Reservoir, north of Indian Creek and east of Box Canyon.

The fire is about two miles east of Trapper's Crossing. All pre-evacuation notices issued Sunday afternoon remain in effect.

Fire managers are evaluating the possibility of conducting a burnout operation to the east of Basin Creek Road near Lake Nighthorse to control the fire on the west side.

Weather forecasters said the monsoonal rains that are typical for this time of year are expected to materialize this afternoon and tomorrow. But drier air is expected later this week on Thursday and Friday, said Dennis Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Temperatures are expected to reach 88 degrees today, he said. Gusty winds and thunderstorms are predicted for late afternoon and early evening and are expected to increase in fire activity.

The fire burning southwest of the Animas Air Park in Basin Creek quickly grew Sunday, prompting authorities to issue a pre-evacuation order Sunday evening, making reverse 911 calls to 146 residents in Trappers Crossing and areas northwest of the fire.

The fire crossed over the ridge to the west and was headed toward Lake Nighthorse, Forest Service spokeswoman Bond said in a news release, sent Sunday evening.

A Type III helicopter, which had been in Dolores responding to lightning strikes, was on scene dropping water from the Animas River on the flames starting early Sunday afternoon. Two heavy air tankers and two heavy helicopters were en route Sunday evening, Bond said.

A threatened gas well pad was shut down Sunday, with gas companies preparing to shut down others in the area, Bond said.

“A gas well pad threatened earlier by the fire has been shut down by Chevron, and firefighters are working with other gas companies to prepare in the case of other well pads being threatened in the area,” she said in a release.

Initially reported at 11:48 a.m. Sunday, the fire sparked as a lightning holdover, Bond said.

It is crowning and spotting in piñon and juniper trees on Southern Ute Indian Tribe land, she said.

Crews from the U.S. Forest Service, Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe and Jicarilla Apache Indian Tribe responded late Sunday afternoon, joining crews and two engines from Durango Fire & Rescue Authority, along with a Southern Ute Fire Department engine and initial tech crew, which had been on scene for several hours, Bond said.

A Durango Interagency Type III Incident Command Team was also getting set up Sunday evening, she said.

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