Firefighters from the Durango Fire Protection District responded to a fire at James Ranch in the Animas Valley at about 4 p.m. Friday. It was quickly extinguished and only burned about 3 acres of grass, no structures.
“We understand Dave James had decided to do a test burn to check conditions,” DFPD Fire Marshal Karola Hanks said. “There was a wind shift, and he called 911 when it started threatening his tree nursery.”
Incident Commander Scott Gallagher stationed a fire engine to protect the structures, she said, but it was just in case. Two brush trucks and the fire engine were on scene, with 12 on-duty and volunteer firefighters responding.
This is the time of year when many ranchers and farmers in the agricultural community are burning ditches and weeds to prepare for the spring, when their growing season begins.
“James Ranch is at the head of the irrigation ditch and gets water before everyone else in the valley,” Hanks said. “This fire tried to jump a small ditch that had water in it, and it could have been a lot different in areas where water isn’t running yet.”
Most agriculturists will be getting irrigation water in their ditches in the next week or two, she said, so this weekend could see a lot of ditch burning.
“People need to remember to do it in the early morning and stay aware of wind conditions,” she said. “Spring always has some rough wind days.”
She praised James for calling for help as soon as he realized there was a problem.
“People who have burn permits often worry about calling for help when they lose control of the burn because they’re worried about the consequences,” she said. “But not calling for help before the fire is uncontainable has worse consequences.”