The Black Ridge Fire ignited Wednesday afternoon on Southern Ute land in southern La Plata County. Here's the latest:
Residents in the Rancho Durango subdivision are safe to stay in their homes Wednesday night, Scot Davis, spokesman for the Durango Fire Protection District, said in a 7:35 p.m. release. However, they remain on pre-evacuation status until further notified.
“The fire is laying down, and relative humidity is increasing in the area,” he said. “Retardant has been dropped around most of the perimeter of the fire, and the fire has burned into the 2005 Black Ridge Fire burn scar.”
Fire crews will patrols the burn area throughout the night, Davis said.
Thursday morning, two helicopters and a heavy air tanker will fight the fire, and bulldozers and crews will work around the perimeter.
“The fire is slowing down as evening comes,” said Scot Davis, spokesman for the Durango Fire Protection District in a 7 p.m. release. “Smoke density is lowering. Black smoke is decreasing.”
No structures were directly threatened, he said. The fire was burning in piñon and juniper trees on about 50 acres.
The Southern Ute Tribe Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire Management Team is the lead agency on the Black Ridge Fire, with Los Pinos and Durango Fire protection districts, the La Plata County Sheriff's Office and Office of Emergency Management providing assistance.
“Since the fire seems to have quieted down, and all the pre-evacuation notices have been delivered, (La Plata County) Sheriff's Office deputies are clearing out,” Sheriff's Office spokesman Dan Bender said. “They can return as needed.”
La Plata County Road and Bridge Department is towing an 18-wheel water tanker into the Rancho Durango subdivision.
“That's going to be prepositioned,” Bender said, “so firefighters can withdraw water throughout the night as needed.”
Residents in the subdivision are under pre-evacuation notice, but no evacuation orders have been issued.
“Everything is replaceable except you,” said Jim Holzman, who has lived there for five years. “But I've at least loaded up all my interesting things.”
In addition to the Black Ridge Fire, area agencies were responding to County Road 101 west of Marvel where several buildings are on fire and a brush fire that may have been human-caused on County Road 523 southeast of Bayfield.
“People should remain vigilant, not just in these areas but throughout the county,” Bender said. “These fire conditions are not expected to change for another one to two weeks, and the risk of fire will continue to be with us for some time.”
One Type 3 helicopter and two heavy air tankers are attacking the fire, said Scot Davis, spokesman for the Durango Fire Protection District.
“The fire is burning in the burn scar from fires in 1994 and 2004,” Davis said.
Fires in burn scar areas tend to have lower levels of fuels available to feed a fire.
Meanwhile, two other fires were burning in La Plata County as well.
Multiple structures were ablaze at 2065 County Road 101 west of Marvel, but information on whether they were homes or outbuildings was not immediately available. Durango Fire Protection District dispatched an engine from the downtown station to assist the Fort Lewis Mesa Fire Protection District, said Scot Davis, public education coordinator for Durango Fire.
And a brush fire was burning southeast of Bayfield.
“Deputies were requested by Upper Pine Fire Protection District to respond to a brush fire in the 5800 block of County Road 523 that appeared to be human caused,” said Dan Bender, spokesman for the La Plata County Sheriff's Office. “What that means is we have three fires burning in La Plata County at the same time.”
“There's not a ton of info coming in,” said Scot Davis, spokesman for the Durango Fire Protection District. “The crews down there are working pretty hard, and the smoke on this side (the east side of Black Ridge) is going down. The winds are calming down, and I have a good feeling we are going to get a handle on this overnight and get a perimeter in place. We'll determine in the morning if we need air resources.”
“Reverse 911 calls were issued at 4:30 p.m.,” said Dan Bender, spokesman for the La Plata County Sheriff's Office. “It was a pre-evac notice only affecting private land in the High Flume Canyon area including Rancho Durango Road in the Rancho Durango Subdivision, Green Shadow Road, High Flume Drive and Loop, La Posta Canyon Road and adjoining roads, pretty much the far west portion of High Flume Canyon in that subdivision.”
La Plata County Road and Bridge Department is towing two water tankers into the area, he said.
A command post is set up at the site of the old Sunnyside Grange, across U.S. Highway 550 from Sunnyside Elementary School.
“Sheriff Sean Smith, Butch Knowlton (director of the La Plata County Office of Emergency Management, (Durango Fire Protection District) Battalion Chief Randy Black and others are at the site,” Bender said. “It gives us a nice overview of the fire area and also gives us good radio communication.”
Durango Herald Staff Writer Jonathan Romeo reports that several families are taking precautions and some are packing up in preparation to evacuate if an order is issued.
“Oil workers say they can't access their wells,” Romeo said. “They said a bunch of wells are in the area of the fire.”
Residential structures and oil and gas resources are threatened by the fire, according to Durango Fire Protection District spokesman Scot Davis.
While no red flag warning was issued for Wednesday, the National Weather Service said temperatures above normal, low humidity – 19 percent as of 4:45 p.m. – and dry fuels would keep the possibility of fire high.
“We are organizing pre-evacuation notices and structure fire protection for the High Flume (Canyon) area right now,” said Butch Knowlton, director of emergency management for La Plata County. “We have fire and law enforcement personnel on scene.”
According to the scanner, emergency personnel are organizing a command post at the old Sunnyside Grange, which is across U.S. Highway 550 from Sunnyside Elementary School.
The fire is reported at about 50 acres with 100-foot flames.
Multiple agencies are responding to a fire in southern La Plata County.
The fire is burning on the eastern side of Black Ridge near La Posta Road (County Road 213), said Rich Gustafson, fire management officer for the Southern Ute Tribe Bureau of Indian Affairs. The fire is on Southern Ute land at this time, he said.
The large plume of smoke can be seen for miles, including in Durango.
Check back at durangoherald.com for updates.