39 days of destruction

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39 days of destruction

Perfect storm of conditions preceded Missionary Ridge Fire
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39 days of destruction

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Flames march along Missionary Ridge toward Durango on June 24, 2002. It is the first day of more than a month of fire in La Plata County.
The Missionay Ridge Fire burns behind the Dalton Ranch subdivision in the Animas Valley.
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An air tanker makes what will be one of many slurry drops on the east side of the Animas Valley.
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The flames and heat of the Missionary Ridge Fire were at times so intense that only tree trunks and sturdy steel remained after the fire moved through.
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The Missionary Ridge Fire spawned a firestorm on June 17, 2002, that ripped west to east across Vallecito Reservoir, leaving a path of destruction. Authorities had advised people to move property to the dry lake bed declaring it a “safe area.”
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The stress of the Missionary Ridge Fire took its toll on La Plata County residents, including Jim Downs and Kathy Tucker, who were waiting at the Red Cross shelter at Bayfield High School on June 18, during the daily updates to hear if their Vallecito home had burned. To their relief, it did not.
Jeff Harris, with the Durango Fire & Rescue Authority, extinguishes a downed tree near the fire line on the west side of the fire on June 9, 2002, just hours after the fire started.
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The smoke was so heavy at times that some firefighters like T.W. Witt, with Upper Pine Fire Protection District, used bandannas to help filter particles from the air.
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JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald file photo
A smoke plume rises above the Falls Creek subdivision during the Valley Fire on June 25. La Plata County residents could not look up into the sky in the afternoons without seeing a smoke plume from the fires.
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