Gains made in Paradox blaze battle

30 percent containment reported late Monday

DENVER – Crews continue to battle two wildfires in Colorado that have burned a combined 12 square miles, officials said Monday.

An 8-square-mile fire near Paradox was 30 percent contained, but a smaller fire near Pagosa Springs was burning in terrain so steep and rugged that firefighters had made little progress building containment lines.

“It’s probably going to be a while before we see any containment just because the terrain is so difficult to work in,” fire information officer Pam Wilson said.

Contained means firefighters have built lines around the fire or are using natural fire breaks to “contain” the fire.

The larger fire, known as the Sunrise Mine Fire, was burning on public land about four miles north of Paradox and 100 miles northwest of Durango, near the Colorado-Utah border.

Five helicopters, nine fire engines and about 350 firefighters were on the scene. Containment was aided Monday by cooler temperatures and calmer winds compared to the weekend.

“It’s a good day to get some firefighting done,” fire information officer David Eaker said.

Fire managers said some campers had been evacuated but the number wasn’t known. No structures have burned.

The fire started Friday, shutting down several roads in Colorado and Utah.

The wildfire near Pagosa Springs, the Little Sand Fire, had scorched 4 square miles by Monday. Firefighters began work bulldozing a line on a ridge north of the fire near Williams Creek to keep the flames inside the burn perimeter. The Alpine Hotshots, an auxiliary crew brought in from Rocky Mountain National Park, may ignite smaller fires in the south to consume dry fuel and prevent the wildfire from spreading across the Piedra River, Wilson said.

About 10 homes and cabins stand at least two miles north of the fire and 30 or 40 are to the east.

Wilson said 100 firefighters were on the scene and more crews had been ordered. Two helicopters were available, but they were not being used Monday because crews haven’t been able to get close enough to the fire to utilize air-dropped water.

The fire was started by lightning May 13, said Information Officer Brandy Richardson.

Herald Staff Writer Luke Groskopf contributed to this report.

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