The Coal Gulch Fire, which broke out Saturday afternoon west of Durango in the Perins Peak State Wildlife Area, was listed as 75 percent contained Sunday night.
The fire has burned about 5.8 acres on state land half a mile north of U.S. Highway 160, west of Lightner Creek Road (County Road 207), since it was reported at 4:19 p.m. Saturday. Lightning is the suspected cause.
Durango Fire Protection District Battalion Commander Rod Allen said fire officials were confident the fire would not grow overnight so crews were called in for the night.
“There was no significant change in the fire Sunday,” he said.
Sunday’s work entailed building containment lines to keep flames from heavy timber. About 30 firefighters worked Sunday, and Allen said 15 firefighters would return Monday at 7:30 a.m.
“Acreage is small, the potential is large,” Randy Black, deputy chief for DFPD said Sunday morning. “The problem is the fire has the potential to grow and get into heavy timber area. If it goes east, it could easily become a 100-acre-plus fire.”
But low winds and afternoon showers were helpful to crews mopping up from Durango Fire, Idaho Panhandle and Columbine Wildland Fire.
“Storms have helped today (Sunday),” Black said. “We missed most of them Saturday and just got the gusty winds.”
A slight chance of rain showers forecasted for Monday may continue to assist firefighters.
On Sunday firefighters were primarily digging trenches parallel to the dirt and rock-ridden Coal Gulch Road, which served as a natural boundary. Hoses were running the length of the road down into the gulch, sourcing from a 3,000-gallon porta tank sitting atop the ridge.
Access was an issue; only four-wheel drive can traverse the rough road, so crews were initially limited to fighting from the air, and thick smoke rendered it difficult for helicopters to navigate drops.
On Sunday, a helicopter dropped 19 buckets of water, each filled with about 180 gallons, on the fire, pulled from a pond on private property on Lightner Creek Road, just east of the fire.
“Last night (Saturday), that water kind of saved us,” Black said.
No structures have been destroyed or threatened.
DFPD officials met Sunday morning with officials from state agencies and decided that the state will cover aircraft expenses from Saturday, possibly the Type 2 helicopter used on Sunday and the use of U.S. Forest Service crews from Idaho Panhandle on Sunday and Monday. Durango Fire will pay for its own resources, and the county will cover the Skidgine, which is a fire engine capable of carrying 1,250 gallons of water and equipped with a blade to cut through brush.
Durango Fire Protection District is managing the fire with assistance from a Type 2 helicopter, the Skidgine, a small overhead team, crews from Columbine Wildland Fire and Idaho Panhandle, and the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office and Office of Emergency Management.
Another wildfire that broke out Saturday southwest of Red Mesa was 70 percent contained Sunday evening.
Kathy Hodnett, center manager at the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center, said crews were mopping up the Dome Fire with the help of a Ute Mountain Ute Agency helicopter.