Warm, dry weather and low fuel moisture continue to feed the Burro Fire, which has grown 141 acres since Monday.
An infrared mapping flight about 8:17 p.m. Tuesday showed the fire was at 4,578 acres. According to the pilot’s log, the flight revealed new growth in the northwest, along Bear Creek to the southwest near Burro Mountain, and toward Forest Service Road 436. Elsewhere, only isolated heat was detected, and heavy cloud cover obscured the southern end of the fire.
The fire began June 8 in Bear Creek Canyon near the Gold Run Trail. It remains 40 percent contained.
Hand crews continued to reinforce control lines and remove hazardous fuels along the northeastern and southwestern containment lines and conduct back burns along the bulldozed line on the western side of the fire in an attempt to stay ahead of the slowly growing fire.
The eastern side of the fire, known as Division R, remained unstaffed. Natural barriers such as high elevation, rock and aspen currently separate the Burro Fire from the 416 Fire, less than 2 miles to the east. A burnout operation over the past few days has allowed 416 Fire crews to build a successful containment line along the southwest perimeter of the fire. Officials say the 53,260-acre fire is now 45 percent contained.
Forecasters predict that a significant wetting rain will begin Friday, with predictions calling for between 0.1 and 0.25 inches of rain.
“We are 100 percent expecting rain on Friday,” said Brandalyn Vonk, a spokeswoman for the 416 Fire’s National Incident Management Organization team. “In the past, we were seeing 4,000-, 5,000-acre days, and then the past two days we’ve seen just under 2,000. It’s slowly been decreasing.”
On Monday, firefighters working near Burro Mountain and Rough Canyon observed increased fire behavior because of shifting winds. Much of the increased activity occurred in unburned areas inside the perimeter, resulting in minor expansion of the overall footprint of the fire, and the fire reportedly grew 108 acres on Monday.
Recent growth occurred to the south toward the ridge southeast of Burro Mountain and across the Aspen Loop Trail. The section of the fire burning in Rough Canyon on the fire’s northeast edge made a push southwest toward Forest Road 436, also called Hillside Drive. There were also small areas of growth to the north and southwest.
This week, two new firefighting crews arrived on the Burro Fire, to relieve two crews that are scheduled to return home soon when their 14-day assignment ends.
At 6 a.m. Tuesday, local federal fire manager Brad Pietruszka took over the incident command post. He is familiar with the San Juan National Forest, and with the firefighting methods that have been successful in managing the Burro Fire.
Experienced personnel will orient new crews for a few days. About 50 firefighters are working to contain the fire.
The Durango Herald contributed to this article.