Burro Fire slows; Mancos State Park joins list of closures

Thursday, June 14, 2018 7:54 AM
The Burro Fire reached 2,829 acres by Wednesday morning. It is burning in a remote area of the San Juan National Forest about 23 miles east of Dolores.

The Mancos State Park on Wednesday announced a partial closure of its campgrounds because of fire risk, even as the Burro Fire's growth slowed down slightly in the morning.

Patrick Seekins, of the Dolores Ranger District, said the wildfire burning northeast of Dolores in the Bear Creek area grew about 200 acres Tuesday night, reaching 2,829 acres by Wednesday. Crews were continuing to establish a dozer line along the south side of the fire and were scouting for opportunities to secure the fire's north and west edges. As of Wednesday, no structures or private property had been damaged.

In a news release Wednesday morning, Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced that the north and west shores of Jackson Gulch Reservoir in Mancos State Park would close because of "exceptionally high fire risk in the area." All roads, trails and campsites in that area of the park, which borders the San Juan National Forest, were closed. Campers in the area's four occupied campsites were asked to move to a different part of the park.

Park Manager Scot Elder said CPW decided to implement the partial closure because Mancos State Park has the same type of fuel as the San Juan National Forest, which closed Tuesday because of fire danger. He also said some visitors to the park recently failed to comply with the Stage 2 fire restrictions, and he didn't want to risk that another mistake might start a wildfire.

"We are committed to working with the Forest Service, Montezuma County and the water district to take all precautions to minimize any risk of fire," Elder said in the release. "We'll monitor this closure frequently and adjust it to find balance between providing recreation while minimizing risk."

The park's main campground, the two rental yurts, the group picnic area and the boat ramp will remain open for the time being. Parts of the reservoir's shoreline, along the dam and the south side, are open to fishing and nonmotorized boat launches.

Stage 2 fire restrictions remain in place for the park, meaning all open fires are prohibited and smoking is only allowed inside a vehicle. According to the release, everyone who has made a reservation for a campsite in the closed part of the park will be moved to the main campground.

Mancos is the latest of several recreation areas to announce closures due to fire danger. The San Juan National Forest closed Tuesday for the first time in its history as a state park. Lone Dome and Fish Creek State Wildlife Areas have also been closed. In Durango, the Bodo, Perins Peak, Haviland Lake, Devil Creek and Williams Creek wildlife areas are closed, and the Lion's Club shooting range in Bayfield is also closed.

Navajo State Park, Ridgway State Park, Echo Canyon State Wildlife Area and Pastorious State Wildlife Area are still open. Mesa Verde National Park will also stay open unless a fire threatens its borders, public information officer Cristy Brown said Wednesday.

On Wednesday, 14 mpg wind gusts were blowing mostly south and southwest through the Bear Creek valley, where the Burro Fire burns. The Type 1 Incident Management Team's public information officer, John Bearer, said the Burro Fire spreads most quickly during the least humid parts of the day, typically the afternoon between 1 and 6 p.m. It's a fuel-driven fire, he said, meaning it's hot enough to ignite the fuel around it without the help of strong winds.

About 200 firefighters combated the Burro Fire on Wednesday. Bearer said none of them have sustained injuries, although one firefighter spent Tuesday night at Southwest Memorial Hospital because of dehydration.

"We're paying a lot more attention to dehydration today," he said.

He said the Incident Management Team's finance personnel were still working on an estimate of the cost of the fire.

The team's estimated containment date for the Burro Fire is July 15, although Bearer said that date depends on the weather. The National Weather Service predicts a slight chance of thunderstorms Thursday and Friday night, followed by showers on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Karla Sluis, public relations manager for Axis Health System, announced the organization is offering three free counseling sessions to any Southwest Colorado resident experiencing stress or trauma related to the 416 Fire in Durango or the Burro Fire. Appointments can be arranged through Columbine Behavioral Healthcare in Durango by calling (970) 259-2162.

At a glance

The Burro Fire, named for a nearby mountain, started June 8 and burns 5 miles up the Bear Creek drainage east of Dolores.

Size of fire: 2,829 acres, with no containment as of Wednesday morning. It is expected to burn for weeks.

What's next: Create containment lines on the west and south sides of the fire to keep it from the Haycamp and Transfer Park areas. A bulldozer crew worked Tuesday to clear a line along with hand crews. Firefighters were scouting for containment opportunities along the north and west sides of the fire on Tuesday night.

Closures: The San Juan National Forest is closed to recreation, effective Tuesday. Mancos National Park is partially closed.

Firefighters: Managed by a Type 1 crew in Dolores along with the larger 416 Fire north of Durango. Just under 200 personnel are battling the Burro Fire.

Weather: Highs in the mid-70s through Thursday. Chance of rain and thunderstorms this weekend.

The Journal