San Juan National Forest update:
Additional firefighting resources arrived on the Sand Creek Fire Saturday and three hotshot crews will arrive today. The fire is burning in a remote area about 21 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs and has grown to about 50 acres in size.
Helicopters have been dropping water on the fire, which is burning inside an area previously burned during the Little Sand Fire in 2012.
Fire managers are working to keep the fire as small as possible and are developing plans on how to achieve that objective while limiting risks to firefighters. The area can only be reached by foot or air and is full of dangerous standing dead trees (snags).
Firefighters hiked in yesterday to assess the fire and it was a two-and-a-half hour hike in to reach the fire area. Today firefighters will use drones to get accurate intelligence on the perimeter of the fire. They are also working on a helicopter landing zone to be used in case of medical emergencies, as well as scouting roads and other geographic features that could be used for fire lines.
A Type 3 Incident Management Team is now in place and began managing firefighting operations this morning. The team includes specialists in analyzing what the fire behavior is likely to be and where the fire may grow, given the terrain, the fuel that is available to burn and the predicted weather. These specialists will help the team develop a plan that has the best chance of being successfully implemented. The team will soon include an Air Resource Advisor who will issue air quality forecasts for the public. Smoke from this fire is visible from U.S. 160 between Pagosa Springs and Bayfield. Fire danger remains very high and fire restrictions are in place on the San Juan National Forest.
Additional incident information on the Sand Creek Fire will be posted to: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6790/.
All offices on the San Juan National Forest are currently conducting business and providing services virtually. For information on the San Juan National Forest, call (970 ) 247-4874.
Saturday update from San Juan National Forest Public Affairs Officer Esther Godson:
With the Red Flag conditions (hot, windy and dry weather) on Friday, the fire expanded to 25 acres. A helicopter was utilized for water bucket drops on the incident throughout the morning.
The standing dead tree (i.e. snag) hazard, heavy downed trees and difficult access make direct engagement with ground personnel difficult.
Additional wildland fire modules will arrive today. Wildland fire modules are 10-person crews highly skilled in working on fires in difficult and remote areas. The Columbine Wildland Fire Module (San Juan National Forest) and the Unaweep Wildland Fire Module (Upper Colorado River BLM) will join the Snowslide Wildland Fire Module (Payette National Forest) in monitoring fire behavior and assessing how to safely engage this incident.
The local San Juan National Forest Type 3 Incident Management Team will be in briefed and assume command of the Sand Creek fire Sunday, June 21.
The fire is in a remote area, located 5 air miles north of the Piedra River, 1 mile west of Sand Bench and 2.5 miles south of the Mosca road in the Sand Creek drainage. The lightning-started fire is burning in the Little Sand fire scar from 2012.
Smoke will be very visible from the Piedra Road, Williams Reservoir and U.S. 160. The public is asked to be cautious and aware of fire activity (including personnel, aircraft and equipment) when recreating in the Piedra drainage.
Firefighters worked quickly and have controlled all previous lightning fires discovered from the last storm except for the Sand Creek fire, which was at 12 acres Friday morning.
Sand Creek Fire update:
Yesterday, a chinook helicopter continued to work the fire with water bucket drops. A wildland fire module from the Payette National Forest in Idaho was flown in and is established on Sand Bench. They will continue to look for opportunities to engage the incident and monitor fire conditions.
Today, a helicopter will be utilized again to slow fire growth in the heavy dead and down trees. Limited access and standing, dead trees (i.e. snags) from the previous Little Sand fire are major hazards limiting firefighters ability to safely engage the incident directly.
A local San Juan National Forest Type 3 Incident Management Team is expected to take control of the fire on Sunday morning.
Pagosa Ranger District Fire Management asks the public to cautious and aware of fire activity (personnel and equipment) before recreating in the Sand Creek area. Smoke will be visible from the Piedra road for the duration of the incident.
The Sand Creek fire continued to grow “despite utilizing a Type 1 Helicopter with bucket drops yesterday to cool the fires edge. The current size is 12 acres and is in the Little Sand fire scar from 2012. Crews are still unable to engage the fire due to numerous snags, hazardous terrain, steep slopes, and difficult access. Crews will return today to continue looking for safe opportunities. The helicopter will be on the fire again cooling the fires edge. Additional resources are being ordered.”
The Sheep Creek fire is “controlled and will be checked regularly until declared out.”
The Plumtaw fire was placed into controlled status on June 17 at 6 p.m. “The crews spent the entire day mopping up hot spots. The fire area will be checked daily until the Incident Commander (IC) is confident in calling the fire out.