A fire in an undeveloped area northwest of the Durango Tech Center on Monday apparently started about 30 feet from a tent site but not from a campfire, Durango Fire Protection District Marshal Karola Hanks said Tuesday.
A shovel had been burned over in the area of origin, and although investigators “have a pretty good idea” what was going on, they are still conducting interviews before releasing a final report, Hanks said.
Durango Fire was aided by a highly experienced federal wildland fire investigator who is based in the San Juan Public Lands building, Hanks said.
For the second consecutive day, fire officials cautioned the public to be wary of increasingly dry conditions in the lower elevations.
Monday’s fire spread easily with the help of low humidity, high temperatures, drier-than-normal vegetation and some spring-like wind gusts. Those conditions aren’t likely to change until the area gets repeated precipitation. The National Weather Service predicts a chance of rain and snow for Durango from Thursday through Sunday, but even that likely will just offer a reprieve, Hanks said.
“The potential for a fire growing, and growing rapidly, is significantly higher” than normal for this time of year, Hanks said.
Monday afternoon’s fire on steep hillsides of ponderosa and juniper reached about one-quarter acre before firefighters contained it.
Hanks said those who are planning controlled burns need to get a permit, and they need to stick to small piles. Because of the dryness, burning big piles in the wind “could be disastrous,” she said. If conditions are too hazardous on a certain day, Durango Fire can postpone a burn permit.
“We want to work with people, but at the same time, we don’t want to put the community at risk,” Hanks said.
And she added that whatever helps to bring precipitation and to stave off a potentially big fire season this spring and summer – prayers, rain dances, “anything” – is encouraged.