Even with a red flag warning in place Monday, firefighters made progress in containing four fires burning across Southwest Colorado.
The red flag warning was to expire at 8 p.m. Monday. However, rain remains out of the five-day forecast for most of Southwest Colorado.
East Canyon FireThe East Canyon Fire, burning in piñon, juniper and Gambel oak on 2,905 acres 2 miles southeast of Mancos, was listed at 79% containment Monday morning, said Chris Zoeller, operations chief with the Rocky Mountain Blue Type 2 Fire Incident Team. Crews strengthened lines around much of the blaze Monday, and by Monday evening, the blaze was 95% contained.
On Sunday, lines were strengthened on the northeast side of the fire, the front-facing side near U.S. Highway 160.
In addition, lines around the southern section, both the southeast and the southwest, were bolstered Monday.
Crews and fire engines continue to monitor conditions along Cherry Creek Road (County Road 105) and along Montezuma County Road 46, he said.
Where containment lines have been established, he said, “Without something very, very unexpected happening, we’re really confident that nothing’s going to come out of these lines.”
Management of the fire will transition back to a Type 3 team at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Sand Creek FireLarge air tankers made 15 retardant drops over the Sand Creek Fire on Sunday and a “very large air tanker,” called a VLAT, made one drop as well, effectively slowing the spread of the fire.
As of Monday, the blaze was estimated at 60 acres. The retardant will buy firefighters time to develop tactics to successfully contain the fire in the next few days, according to a Facebook page established for the fire.
According to the Facebook post, 110 people are now working the blaze.
“This is very difficult ground for firefighting,” says Incident Commander trainee Tracy Milakovic, “and we need to carefully assess where we can most safely and effectively engage.”
Hot-shot crews and wildland fire modules, another type of specialized firefighting team, are working to identify the best places to construct fire lines, as well as to monitor the fire’s behavior and movement.
Heavy equipment has been ordered to help build fire lines, and a second heavy-lift helicopter was in service Monday.
The fire is burning in the Sand Creek drainage about 21 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs within an area previously burned during in 2012. Numerous dead trees are available as fuel.
Smoke is visible from Pagosa Springs and Bayfield, and the public does not need to report it.
Fire danger remains high, and fire restrictions are in place on the San Juan National Forest.
Loading Pen FireThe Loading Pen Fire, burning between Dolores and Rico, remained listed at 42 acres and 90% contained.
“It’s well-contained, and we have been able to release resources to other fires and for any new starts,” said Esther Godson, spokeswoman with the San Juan National Forest.
On Saturday, management of the fire was returned to the Dolores Ranger District from a Type 3 Fire Incident Management Team, Godson said.
The lightning-sparked fire is burning in mixed conifer – Douglas fir, ponderosa, spruce – and aspen.
Six Shooter FireThe Six Shooter Fire is 100% contained, according to a news release issued this weekend by Lindsay Box, spokeswoman with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
Fire personnel remained watching the blaze Monday, and oil and gas operations are expected to be able to resume normal activities this week.
Stage 1 fire restrictions were enacted for the Southern Ute Indian Reservation on May 11 and remain in place.