Pre-evacuation notices were issued Wednesday as the Plateau Fire grew to 9,000 acres and forced road closures reaching from the northern edge of Dolores to the southern tip of Lone Mesa State Park.
The closure encompasses an area bound roughly by McPhee Reservoir on the west, Forest Service Road 527 on the east, Forest Service Road 514 on the north and Forest Service Road 249 on the south, including Boggy Draw.
With the latest closures, it is prohibited to be on any portion of Boggy Draw, Bean Canyon, McNeil and McPhee Overlook trails or to access Italian Canyon or Maverick trails from the closed area. The eastern boundary comes within a mile of Colorado Highway 145.
Earlier Wednesday, the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office issued pre-evacuation notices for residents who live on County Road V.6 and north along County Road 31 to House Creek Road. Evacuations were not mandatory.
Dolores-Norwood Road was closed from its intersection with House Creek Road north to Cottonwood Road, or Forest Road 532, said Plateau Fire public information officer Rob Kopack. Both House Creek and Dolores-Norwood roads will be used for fire operations, he said.
The House Creek Campground and boat dock were closed Wednesday morning, and six or seven campers were evacuated from the House Creek campground about 9:30 a.m., officials said. Portions of the eastern shoreline of McPhee Reservoir were in the process of being closed.
The fire reached 7,200 acres on Tuesday, and Kopack estimated that by 10 a.m. Wednesday, it approached 8,000 acres.
By 4 p.m., it was 9,000 acres and growing, said Gretchen Fitzgerald of the San Juan National Forest. The fire has been very active for the past few days, she said, growing about 1,000 acres a day.
“Low humidity and high erratic winds have been pushing the fire in all directions,” Fitzgerald said. “At this moment, the fire is being held north of Forest Service Road 529; however, this may not hold.”
Containment of the fire remained at 15 percent.
On Tuesday, the fire made a significant run south down Plateau Creek Canyon past Beaver Creek and the northeastern tip of McPhee Reservoir. Overnight, strong winds pushed the fire farther south and east to Forest Road 529 but still north of House Creek Road (Forest Road 528).
Planning section chief Bruce Short said the fire’s southeastern growth past Beaver Creek was of “great concern.”
The bulk of the firefighting team was focused Wednesday on the south side of the fire, known as Divisions X and Z. The fire’s southwestern edge also was seeing active fire activity, Short said.
The fire was expected to be active Wednesday as winds, high temperatures and low relative humidity persisted.
A more robust Type 2 incident management team composed of local, state and federal agencies – Rocky Mountain Team Black from Pueblo – was expected to assume command of the fire on Thursday. In July, the team took command of the Lake Christine Fire northwest of Basalt.
About 185 personnel are currently assigned to the fire, including two Hotshot teams from New Mexico and Durango. Current equipment includes four helicopters and four fire engines, and two more were on the way, said Short.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an air quality advisory for portions of west-central and Southwest Colorado through 9 a.m. Thursday, including Dolores, Montezuma, La Plata, San Miguel and Archuleta counties. It includes but is not limited to Cortez, Dolores, Dove Creek, Mancos and Durango.
Community looks ahead to possible evacuationsAs word spread about pre-evacuations, community organizations began to step up with offers of assistance.
The Montezuma County Fairgrounds, 30100 U.S. Highway 160, said that it would accept evacuated horses and other livestock for free, said Tanner Young, who manages the fairgrounds. He requested that people who need assistance call in advance at 970-759-1795.The Cortez Animal Shelter, 2791 E. Main St., said it would accept evacuated dogs and cats, said supervisor Jennifer Crouse. She requested that pet owners call (970) 565-4910.Montezuma County has set up a call center for information on the Plateau Fire. Anyone with questions may call (970) 564-4998 or (970) 564-4999. If it is an emergency, call 911.The Sheriff’s Office has set up an Emergency Operations Center. Contact Vicki Shaffer or Mike Pasquin there.