Crews gain ground on wildfires in region

Little Sand blaze 15% contained, Sunrise Mine 92%

Crews made progress in containing two Colorado wildfires Friday, with containment percentages rising Saturday morning for both the Little Sand Fire and the Sunrise Mine Fire.

The Little Sand Fire near Pagosa Springs went from 4 percent containment Thursday to 15 percent Saturday morning.

Still, the fire continues to grow, spreading to the Piedra River in some sections.

Sparked by lightning May 13, the blaze grew from 4,280 acres Thursday to 4,608 acres Saturday morning.

“The town of Pagosa Springs and the Piedra River Valley will continue to see smoke with the likelihood of long-term fire activity,” fire managers said in a news release Saturday morning.

Seven crews with a total of 278 firefighters worked in divisions Saturday to tackle the fire from three angles. So far, the fire hasn’t damaged any structures, but it currently is a threat to 21 structures as well as various outbuildings.

The Palisades, Cimarrona, Teal and Bridge campgrounds remain closed, as do several trails. Both Mosca Road 631 and Trail Ridge Road 639 also are closed.

To date, firefighting costs total $1.5 million, the release said.

Meanwhile, firefighters are closing in on the larger Sunrise Mine Fire, north of Paradox near the Utah border.

The fire was 92 percent contained Saturday afternoon, said spokesman David Eaker.

Fire managers expected to update that number when more information came in Saturday evening and were confident that the burn was nearly contained, Eaker said.

The fire began May 25 and spans 9 square miles.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management fire investigators said in a report Thursday that the fire was human-caused.

Elsewhere, the 1,200-plus firefighters battling the nation’s largest wildfire in rugged mountains and canyons of southwestern New Mexico were racing Saturday to build lines to corral the massive blaze before more threatening winds and dry conditions developed.

The Whitewater-Baldy Fire had charred more than 354 square miles of the Gila National Forest by Saturday morning, and fire managers expected it to start backing down the mountains east of the community of Glenwood.

The fire is about 15 percent contained. The blaze in the Gila National Forest – the largest on record in New Mexico as well as the country’s biggest current blaze – has burned through 227,000 acres of rugged terrain. So far, it has destroyed a dozen cabins and eight outbuildings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.