Dry Lake Fire burning in area, smoke may be visible


By Randi Pierce | Staff Writer

A lightning-caused fire, the Dry Lake Fire, is burning on San Juan National Forest land north of U.S. 160 between Pagosa Springs and Bayfield.

San Juan National Forest personnel reported that the fire, located in the First Notch area of the Columbine District, was one-tenth of an acre early Tuesday afternoon.

“The small fire is east of Yellow Jacket Pass and southwest of Dry Lake Reservoir,” a Wednesday press release describes.

On Wednesday afternoon, forest personnel relayed that a San Juan National Forest Incident Management Team (IMT) took command of the Dry Lake Fire at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning. 

“Fire managers are working to implement a suppression strategy that involves containing the fire within previously defined and prepared control lines to allow this naturally caused wildfire to reduce forest fuels and improve forest health within those boundaries,” the press release explains. “Fire behavior thus far has been minimal, and the fire is not a threat to private property. It is burning within a tract of land that was treated by a prescribed fire in 2019 and was planned for a second prescribed burn this fall. Fire crews have been working to prepare control lines around the roughly 1400-acre section for the past several weeks and that work continues today.”

The press release notes 100 firefighters have been assigned to the fire and an interagency hotshot crew has been ordered. 

It adds fire crews will work today to finish preparing control lines and safeguarding some power poles for the Tri-State high-voltage power line near the fire. Once that work is completed, and if weather conditions continue to be favorable, firefighters will add fire, utilizing drip torches and a drone, to contain the fire with indirect tactics. 

“This is a perfect opportunity to reduce the long-term fire risk in this area,” said Pat Seekins, the fuels program manager for the San Juan National Forest, who is also serving as operations chief for the IMT. “We already have resources on the forest, in terms of engines and hand crews, along with aviation resources if needed, that will help us keep the fire within pre-defined boundaries. And we also have favorable conditions that should allow us to achieve our objectives for this piece of ground.” 

Those objectives, it states, include lowering the risk of future catastrophic wildfire by reducing the amount of fuel on the ground and thinning — with fire — surface fuels, the understory and oak brush. 

It further explains low- to moderate-intensity fire also improves forage for wildlife by creating growing room for grasses and other plants. 

“These efforts align with the Forest Service’s 10-year Wildfire Crisis Strategy, which aims to increase the use of fire on the landscape as well as other treatments to improve forest resiliency for generations to come,” the press release reads. 

Smoke will be visible to travelers along U.S. 160 between Bayfield and Pagosa Springs, and to some residents in Ignacio and Archuleta County. Please watch for extra fire traffic in the area and along First Notch Road (FR 620) this week and into this weekend. 

Wildfire smoke may affect your health. For more information, please go to: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wood-smoke-and-health.