The Sand Creek Fire, burning 20 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs, didn’t grow measurably on Saturday despite afternoon winds that moved in with a storm.
The fire was listed at 71 acres on Sunday morning, according to Troy Hagan, incident commander with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Black, which is overseeing fire suppression.
Winds fanned smoldering logs – producing smoke visible from Pagosa Springs in the afternoon, according to a news release issued by the incident management team.
Firefighters performed structure evaluations in the Weminuche Valley on Saturday, and they sought shelter from wind and lightning associated with the storms in the early afternoon. They were able to finish structure evaluations in the Weminuche Valley after Saturday’s storms cleared.
On Sunday, storms are again expected to move over Southwest Colorado and are expected to produce gusty winds over the fire in the evening. Firefighting resources will monitor the Sand Creek Fire for changes in behavior and are ready to help local efforts if any new fires start.
A red flag warning of critical fire conditions is in effect in Southwest Colorado through 9 p.m. Sunday.
Skies are expected to be mostly clear over the fire on Sunday with temperatures in the upper 70s. A low pressure weather system will strengthen southwest winds across the area into Monday, with winds expected to be stronger than Saturday – with gusts up to 25 mph Sunday afternoon and into the evening.
A forest closure is in effect around the fire area.
The Sand Creek Trail and North Ridge Trail are the only trails currently closed. Mosca Road (Forest Service Road 631) is also closed within the fire area. Mosca Road east of the fire area is restricted to local traffic.
The Piedra River Trail, Little Sand Creek Trail, Lower Weminuche Trail, Coldwater Trail and Coldwater Stock Trail are all currently open.
Air quality was good Sunday morning, and is predicted to remain good into the first part of the week. Smoke from fires in Arizona and Utah continues to push into Southwest Colorado, where a slight haze might be noticed.
Fire danger across Southwest Colorado and the San Juan National Forest are rated as extreme. Fire restrictions are in place on the San Juan National Forest, Archuleta, La Plata, Hinsdale and Montezuma counties.
A Temporary Flight Restriction is in place over the Sand Creek Fire. Wildfires are a No Drone Zone. Drone flights initiated by private individuals are banned because they interfere with aircraft assisting in battling the blaze.
Morefield FireThe Morefield Fire, a lightning-sparked fire reported Saturday, is burning near Morefield Canyon in the southeast section of Mesa Verde National Park, about a mile from the Ute Mountain Ute boundary and approximately 5 miles southeast of Morefield Campground.
As of Sunday morning, the fire is at about 46 acres. Personnel from the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Forest Service are working the fire.
Suppression efforts include aviation resources and ground attack, and the fire is currently being managed by Mesa Verde National Park, said Cristy Brown, spokeswoman for Mesa Verde National Park, in a news release.
The park is open and services in Morefield are not impacted at this time, Brown said.
Because of the extreme fire danger and COVID-19 precautions, limited services and facilities are currently available in the park.
A fire ban, enacted on May 24, remains in effect.
Brown advised visitors to not stop in the roadway, to yield the right of way to fire vehicles, and to remember drones are prohibited in the park.
Updates on the fire will be provided on the national park’s Facebook page.
Yellow Jacket Canyon FireIn addition, firefighters are responding to a wildfire near Yellow Jacket Canyon, said Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin.
It is burning on Bureau of Land Management land and is growing, he said. No structures or residences are threatened.
The fire is 55 acres, according to Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch. A suspected cause is lightning from a storm that passed through the area Saturday night, Nowlin said.
Smoke from fire, located northwest of Cortez, was reported about 1 p.m. A rising plume of smoke is visible from Cortez, Dolores and Dove Creek.
BLM, San Juan National Forest and local firefighting departments are responding to the scene.
Because of its remote location, air support was called to drop fire retardant, Nowlin said. The fire is burning in piñon and juniper and is moving northeast.
“It is being attacked from the air,” he said.
High winds are pushing the fire.
The Journal Staff Writer Jim Mimiaga contributed to this report. email@example.com