A brush fire Saturday in Greenmount Cemetery burned southwest of downtown Durango, producing a plume of gray smoke and flames visible from city streets.
Durango Fire Protection District arrived at 900 Cemetery Road just before noon for the report of a burning vehicle, said Battalion Chief Rod Allen. The captain in the responding fire engine saw the about a quarter acre of dry grass, brush and juniper burning and called for more resources, Allen said.
About 14 people in two fire engines, one water tanker, a command vehicle and a brush truck had the fire contained by about 12:30 p.m., Allen said. The cause of the fire is under investigation, he said.
Most of the fire burned uphill in the grasses and other “light fuels” on a hillside west of the entrance gate to Greenmount Cemetery. The fire started at the bottom of the hill and grew up the slope, Allen said.
“The hill let it run,” he said. “On the flats, it wouldn’t have grown so quickly.”
Some of the junipers on the hillside were “torched,” meaning a few trees burned and produced heat that contributed to the spread of the fire – but not with the intensity of a “crown fire” known to spread in treetops, Allen said.
Durango Police Department stopped vehicle access to the cemetery for at least an hour – no injuries were reported, no structures were threatened and there was no need to evacuate, Allen said. Spot fires started in a mulch pile at the south end of the cemetery – a smoking stash of potential fuel a tanker crew worked to douse around 12:30 p.m.
No fire restrictions were in place in La Plata County on Saturday, according to the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The region is in severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Fire crews are working to keep the fire and burn area from spreading into the memorial site. Allen said he expects the crews may be out by 2 p.m., but a brush truck may need to stay on site to ensure the pile of mulch doesn’t burn.