Tribal firefighters said a lightning strike Wednesday night likely caused an 8-acre wildfire near Ute Mountain on Thursday.
John Trocheck, public safety officer for the Towaoc Fire Department, said smoke was reported in the area just before noon. At 4 p.m., Bureau of Indian Affairs firefighters were on the scene, along with air support, he said. Meanwhile, a thunderstorm that started about 4:30 p.m. caused several small fires in the Cortez area.
A thunderstorm with multiple lightning strikes went over the Ute Mountain area Wednesday night. Trocheck said it sometimes takes a while for lightning-strike fires to produce visible smoke.
“It settled, then woke up,” he said.
At least two fires were reported during Thursday’s thunderstorm. Cortez Assistant Fire Chief Shawn Bittle said crews responded to a lightning-caused fire near county roads BB and 18 in Pleasant View about 4 p.m., and a tree caught fire near county roads 22 and L about 4:30 p.m. The Pleasant View fire was put out, and crews were close to extinguishing the tree by 5 p.m.
All of Montezuma County has been under a fire ban since July 1. Bittle said the fire danger has gone down in some parts of the county over the past week, but not in the Cortez area.
“Our fire district is still very, very dry,” he said.
On Thursday, Mesa Verde National Park lifted its ban of open and charcoal fires in Morefield Campground, Chapin Mesa Picnic Area and park residences. Smoking is permitted in designated areas. Fireworks are prohibited in the park.
Rain showers and cooler temperatures in recent weeks have reduced the fire danger in the park. There are no active fires in the park.
A flash flood watch will remain in effect for most of western Colorado until midnight Thursday.