A lightning-caused wildfire that started Saturday on the southeast side of Mesa Verde National Park had grown to 46 acres as of Monday, said Cristy Brown, spokeswoman for the park.
There was virtually no growth Sunday, she said. She did not immediately have an estimate on containment.
“So they’re going to get a good line built around it today and then take care of any hot spots that are in the center there,” she said Monday.
She asked that residents leave drones at home.
“Be vigilant. It’s super dry, so if you see what you think might look like a smoke, report it to dispatch,” Brown said.
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 assigned Sunday to the blaze, dubbed the Morefield Fire.
Multiagency staff working on the ground included employees from the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Forest Service, Brown said.
The fire was discovered about 5:40 p.m. Saturday, and was estimated late Saturday to be burning on 25 acres. By Sunday morning, it was an estimated 46 acres.
It burned in pinon-juniper vegetation about 5 miles southeast of Morefield Campground and a mile from the Ute Mountain Ute boundary. Much of the area had previously burned, likely during the 19,600-acre Bircher Fire in 2000, Brown said.
By Monday, the fire remained at 46 acres, and crews on the ground were strengthening perimeter fire lines and extinguishing hot spots.
Firefighters and helicopters were being reassigned to the Yellow Jacket and Spring fires northwest of Cortez. About 50 crew remained at Mesa Verde, Brown said.
The park remained open, and services were unaffected, Brown said in a news release Sunday.
She encouraged visitors and nearby residents to remain patient and vigilant during the dry season and alert officials if they see smoke.
Montezuma County Sheriff Steven Nowlin on Saturday attributed the fire to a lightning strike. A half-dozen strikes were reported Friday night in Mesa Verde, including one at the fire scene near Battleship Rock.
The Morefield Fire broke out during a red flag warning and started five days after the park announced an “extreme” fire risk because of hot, dry weather.
Both a red flag warning and an “extreme” rating mean fires can easily 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 parkwide fire ban remains in effect. No wood or charcoal fires are permitted. Pressurized gas stoves and lanterns and other equipment were permitted at Morefield Campground and the Chapin picnic area, but no fireworks or wood or charcoal fires are allowed anywhere in the park.
Brown added Monday that the park’s horse roundup, more than 5 miles north, was unaffected by fire operations.