The lightning-sparked East Canyon Fire was pegged at 2,764 acres Wednesday evening with 0% containment, and the day was described as “generally quiet.”
“The winds didn’t get squirrelly on us,” said Pam Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management and the Rocky Mountain Blue Type 2 team managing the fire.
Moving containment down from 5% listed Tuesday to 0% should not be considered worrying, Wilson said. Wednesday’s lowering of containment was based on the current team’s assessment of the strength of fire-containment lines.
An area south of the fire’s south front, where a spot fire had appeared to break out based on infrared mapping, turned out to be a false report, Wilson said.
Infrared mapping can sometimes be fooled by hot air pockets or other natural heating, she said.
As planned, firefighters concentrated on burnouts along Cherry Creek Road (County Road 105) on Wednesday.
“They want to ensure there are no fuels to feed embers from uphill to the road,” she said.
Firefighters are particularly concerned about keeping the fire from spreading south, where there is a good amount of fuel to feed the fire should it get there, Wilson said.
Personnel assigned to the fire now total 245, including four 20-person Type 1 hot-shot crews and three 20-person Type 2 crews who are fighting the fire on the ground.
Equipment available for the East Canyon Fire includes 15 different engines of various capacities, one bulldozer, five water tenders and a skidgeon, which is a kind of combination water tanker and bulldozer.
Aircraft available, flown out of the U.S. Forest Service’s Durango Airtanker Base at the Durango-La Plata County Airport, include a Very Large Air Tanker, two other air tankers, two single-engine air tankers and three helicopters.
Occasionally Tuesday, Wilson said, some air resources were diverted to the Six Shooter Fire, which broke out Tuesday on Southern Ute Indian Tribe land in Bondad, across from the Bondad Landfill. The Six Shooter Fire was listed at 220 acres Wednesday with 25% containment.
Chris Zoller, operations chief for the Type 2 team, said in a morning briefing the southwestern side of the fire is burning on a mesa. Wilson said some work was done Wednesday to keep the fire burning on top of the mesa and to stop it from dropping into two nearby bowls.
Most of the smoke from the fire, which started Sunday afternoon, is coming from the fire’s south side, Zoller said.
On the fire’s northeast side firefighters were using a rock scree and building hand lines and dozer lines to extend a fireline to an open meadow, where the blaze can burn itself out.
On the northwest side of the fire, hand crews were working with engines to secure fire lines and protect houses.
U.S. Highway 160 remained open Wednesday, but it could close because of decreased visibility from smoke or for firefighting requirements. Highway 160 was closed briefly Tuesday evening.
A red flag warning of critical fire conditions for Southwest Colorado on Wednesday has been dropped, and the National Weather Service expected the high temperature in Mancos on Thursday to reach 76.
Areas north and south of Highway 160 from the top of Mancos Hill to the Target Tree Campground are under evacuation orders. Both sides of the highway from Target Tree Campground to mile marker 66 – about 3 miles east of the Highway 160-Cherry Creek Road (County Road 105) intersection – are under pre-evacuation notice.
About 23 homes on the Montezuma County side and another 15 or so homes on the La Plata County side had been evacuated.