Sand Creek Fire slowed by retardant drops

Sand Creek fire Friday afternoon from Sand Bench.
Photo courtesy United States Forest Service Pagosa Ranger District

San Juan National Forest update:

Large air tankers made 15 retardant drops over the Sand Creek Fire Sunday and a VLAT, Very Large Air Tanker, made one drop as well, effectively slowing the spread of the fire. It is now estimated at 60 acres.

The retardant will buy firefighters time to develop tactics to successfully contain the fire in the days ahead. There are 110 people now working on the fire.

“This is very difficult ground for firefighting,” aid Incident Commander trainee Tracy Milakovic, “and we need to carefully assess where we can most safely and effectively engage.”

Hotshot crews and Wildland Fire Modules, another type of specialized firefighting team, are in the area and working to identify the best places to construct fire lines, as well as monitoring the fire’s behavior and movement.

Heavy equipment has been ordered to assist in creating fire lines and a second heavy lift helicopter will be in service today to drop buckets of water to further slow this fire. The fire is burning in the Sand Creek drainage about 21 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs. The fire is within an area previously burned durin in 2012 and there are many dead trees that are available to burn now.

Smoke from this fire is visible to the north from U.S. 160 between Pagosa Springs and Bayfield. The public does not need to report that smoke. Fire danger remains very high and fire restrictions are in place on the San Juan National Forest.