Lightning ignites fires on Pagosa Ranger District

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SUN photo/Terri House
An air quality advisory was issued for portions of southwestern Colorado by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Wednesday morning through 9 a.m. today, which includes portions of Archuleta County. The smoke was due to two fires in Montezuma County and one in La Plata County.

By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer

Four small fires were started within the San Juan National Forest’s Pagosa Ranger District due to a lightning storm on June 13.

According to an email from San Juan National Forest Public Affairs Officer Esther Godson on Wednesday, the following days of warm and windy weather allowed the fires to be detected.

Two smaller fires are contained and controlled, according to Godson’s email.

Those fires, the Rito fire and Sheep Creek fire, one-tenth of an acre and one-half acre, were contained and controlled on June 16, according to Godson’s email.

The Rito fire was 7.5 miles east of Pagosa Springs behind the Mill Creek Ranch and is out, according to Godson’s email.

The Sheep Creek fire, 21 miles west of Pagosa Springs on the west side of the Piedra River from the Sheep Creek Trailhead, is contained and controlled, according to Godson.

Photo courtesy Casey Bristow
Smoke is visible from the Sand Creek fire, which was caused by a lightning storm on the afternoon on June 13. The fire, about 21 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs, is burning in the Little Sand burn scar in the Piedra Special Management Area. As of June 17, a wildland fire module was set to be flown into the Sand Bench area to assess containment options. The general public is asked to be aware of fire activity before recreating in the area. Smoke from the fire is expected to be visible from Piedra Road and Pagosa Springs.

The Plumtaw fire, which is about 5 acres, has been worked on by fire crews since June 15 to be contained, according to Godson’s email.

“Crews are utilizing hose lays and support from the Pagosa Springs Fire Protection District water tender to mop-up hot spots. The fire is expected to be controlled at the end of shift of the 17th. Smoke may still be visible today,” she wrote.

The Sand Creek fire, about 9.5 acres, is 21 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs and is burning in the Little Sand burn scar in the Piedra Special Management Area, Godson’s email notes.

 “Smokejumpers parachuted into the fire area on the 16th. After assessing the fire on the ground, the decision was made not to engage due to hazardous snags, heavy fuel loads, and difficult terrain,” her email reads. “A Type 1 helicopter will be utilized today to provide water drops on the fire. The smokejumpers will be extracted, and a wildland fire module will be flown into the Sand Bench area to assess containment options. The public is asked to be aware of fire activity before recreating in the Sand Creek area.”

Smoke from the Sand Creek fire will be visible during the duration of the incident, according to Godson’s email.

Smoke is expected to be visible from Piedra Road and Pagosa Springs, her email explains.