MANCOS – Rain helped douse hot spots Tuesday at Western Excelsior, where the production plant, warehouses and offices burned Monday. Fire crews had contained the blaze by about 2 a.m. Tuesday but will continue to monitor the smoldering debris for several days, officials said Tuesday.
The cause of the blaze that started just before 1 p.m. on Monday has not been determined.
The Montezuma County Health Department reported via its Facebook page that the fire would smolder for several days, creating smokey conditions in the Mancos area.
Montezuma County Emergency Manager Paul Hollar said after containing the blaze, fire crews would begin to turn the scene over to Western Excelsior personnel be late Tuesday morning.
“It’s been knocked down to where it’s not a risk to others,” Hollar said. In the next few days, fire crews and plant personnel will monitor the scene to ensure that nothing reignites, he said.
There are still some fuels in the building, Hollar said.
He did not offer a damage estimate, and said insurance investigators would visit the site in the coming days.
Western Excelsior officials did not respond to email requests for comment on the fire and aftermath. The company processes wood to create erosion-control products such as shaved aspen, also known as excelsior.
Mancos Fire Chief Tony Aspromonte said his crews hadn’t fully turned the scene over to plant personnel, and h planned to return to monitor the situation.
“We’re going to knock out the big hot spots, but it will probably smolder for four to five days,” Aspromonte said.
He said the company had sent a watchman to keep an eye on the situation.
The production room, warehouse and offices at the mill sustained the heaviest damage, Aspromonte said.
There was no damage to the wood piles on the plant site or the trailer court across the street, he said.
Workers at the plant, 901 W. Grand Ave., were evacuated safely, fire officials at the scene said, and no injuries were reported. The company employees about 100 people.
Ten fire departments and 50-60 firefighters responded to the blaze, Aspromonte said.
The Cortez fire department sent an engine and a ladder truck. The Dolores fire department also sent an engine. Crews from Pleasant View, Towaoc, Lewis-Arriola, Fort Lewis, Rico, Los Pinos and San Juan County, New Mexico, and Farmington also worked the fire, according to Cortez Fire Chief Jeff Vandevoorde.
The American Red Cross was set up at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post, 136 W. Grand Ave. in downtown Mancos, according to the health department page.
The Red Cross is providing cleaning kits for people whose homes were affected by smoke. Those are available at Mancos Town Hall, 117 N. Main St.
The agency provided hotel vouchers for five families displaced by heavy smoke at area hotels, Mancos Town Clerk Heather Alvarez said. The Red Cross also is providing respirators and water, according to Mancos town officials.
Alvarez said the town will help people in need. Town officials also are offering any help they can to Western Excelsior, Alvarez said.
“They are very important to the community,” she said.
Several area businesses have offered to help the company with arrangements such as unemployment moving forward, she said.
Hollar applauded the efforts of all involved.
“Everyone came together like they were supposed to,” he said.