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Lightning ignites blazes

Area agencies battled several fires in Pagosa Country over the last week, meaning the recent afternoon storms have not yet dampened fuels enough to alleviate fire danger in the area.

Four fires occurred on July 7, while one started on July 6.

The largest of the fires, the Monkey Fire, burned over five acres south of Pagosa Springs, approximately three miles from the intersection of County Roads 500 and 542 (Trujillo and Montezuma roads, respectively), Christina Marquart of the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office reported.

Thirty-four people responded to the blaze, including one helicopter, one county bulldozer, the ACSO fire crew and a hand crew from South Dakota, Marquart said.

Helping the fire was about .1 inches of rain received at the site on the night of July 7.

The fire was contained on July 7, but was not yet deemed to be controlled by press time Wednesday.

The second-largest fire, the Dead Man Fire, took place the same day south of County Road 326 (Upper Blanco Road) and burned approximately three acres, according to Marquart.

Seven people responded to the Dead Man Fire, which was declared contained on July 8 and controlled on July 10, Marquart said.

Coming in at .25 acres, the Rio Blanco Fire, near the end of Echo Canyon Drive, was the third largest fire of the day and was fought by nine people, Marquart reported.

It was contained on July 7 and controlled on July 8.

The smallest of the sizeable fires on July 7 was the Left Hand Fire, in Left Hand Canyon, which burned .2 acres.

Seven people and a helicopter were used to contain the fire that day. The fire was deemed controlled on July 8, Marquart said.

One fire burned half an acre on July 6 off of Lodge Pole Drive, with 20 people responding to battle the blaze, which was contained on July 6 and controlled on July 7.

All of the fires were started by natural causes, Marquart said.

Several other fires started by lightning this week did not grow — a fact Marquart said was noteworthy due to the recent moisture, but added that caution should still be taken.

“Even though we’ve had some rain ... it’s not enough to lift the fire restrictions,” Marquart said.

ACSO Director of Emergency Management Drew Petersen echoed Marquart’s statement, noting the county is, “not out of the woods yet” in terms of fire danger, despite recent measurable rainfall.

Although rainfall amounts vary throughout the county, .6 inches was measured on July 6, .02 inches fell on July 7, .05 inches fell on July 8, .01 inches fell on July 9, .03 inches was recorded on July 10, .21 inches fell on July 11 and the week’s high of .68 inches fell on July 12.

Petersen said the fire conditions are monitored weekly by fire managers and it is not yet safe to lift existing fire restrictions in the county.

Stage one fire restrictions are currently in place for all areas south of U.S. 160 and west of U.S. 84.

“Everyone just needs to use common sense when it comes to fires,” Marquart said.

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