A wildfire on the southeast side of Mesa Verde National Park grew to 46 acres by Sunday morning.
According to Larry Helmerick, a fire information officer at the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center in Lakewood, a Type 1 heavy helicopter, a smaller helicopter and an air supervision module were being assigned to the blaze, dubbed the Morefield Fire.
Multiagency staff working on the ground include employees from the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Forest Service.
The fire was discovered about 5:40 p.m., and was estimated late Saturday to be burning on 25 acres. By Sunday morning, it was an estimated 46 acres.
It burns about 5 miles southeast of Morefield Campground a mile from Ute Mountain Ute boundary.
The fire broke out during a red flag warning, in effect through 9 p.m. Sunday.
Montezuma County Sheriff Steven Nowlin, who was at the site of the East Canyon Fire on the Montezuma-La Plata county line, attributed the fire to a lightning strike. About a half-dozen strikes were reported Friday in Mesa Verde, including one near Battleship Rock.
Nowlin added that crews there were monitoring the Morefield Fire. The East Canyon Fire was 100% contained Saturday and remained at 2,905. All evacuation orders were lifted.
Cristy Brown, public information officer for the fire at Mesa Verde National Park, was unavailable Saturday for comment.
On Sunday, she added in a news release that Mesa Verde National Park was managing the fire and that the park was still open.
“Service in Morefield are not impacted at this time,” she stated.
The Morefield Fire started five days after the national park announced an “extreme” fire risk because of hot and dry weather on June 22. Both a red flag warning and an “extreme” rating mean fires have a high potential to escape initial attack and spread. The park closed Spruce Canyon, Point Lookout, Prater Ridge and Lower Petroglyph trails in addition to Wetherill Mesa road sites and trails.
A fire ban remains in effect. No wood or charcoal fires are permitted in the park, including all residences, Morefield Campground and the Chapin Mesa picnic area. Pressurized gas stoves, lanterns and other equipment were permitted at Morefield Campground and the Chapin picnic area, but no wood or charcoal burning fires are allowed anywhere in the park. Smoking is permitted only in vehicles, parking lots or developed areas clear of vegetation. Cigarette butts must be disposed of in an ash tray or other approved container. Fireworks are prohibited.
The restrictions and closures will remain in effect until conditions become less severe.
This article will be updated when more information is available.