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Weminuche Valley fire forces evacuations

Herald Staff Report

One day after placing residents of the Weminuche Valley on pre–evacuation notice, the Hinsdale County Sheriff’s Office gave the order to leave Friday.

The valley is being threatened by the Little Sand Fire burning northwest of Pagosa Springs. According to a news release Friday, the fire had “reached a predetermined trigger point” and was moving to the northeast.

The evacuation affected Poma Ranch and Weminuche Ranch.

“There are only a couple full–time residents (in the Weminuche Valley). The vacationers who were lodging and camping up there have already left,” said fire information officer Suzanne Flory.

With people out of harm’s way, fire personnel are turning their attention to protecting the 71 houses, cabins and outbuildings in the valley. As of Friday afternoon, the flames were 1½ miles from the nearest structure.

Crews have installed sprinklers and removed brush near the buildings, trying to create buffer zones. Even so, the fire could jump containment lines by “spotting,” when heavy winds project burning embers ahead of the main flames.

If that happens, the buildings’ last line of defense will be a fire-resistant wrapping that resembles tin foil, said Flory.

The Little Sand Fire has burned approximately 10,000 acres of forest since being ignited by lightning May 13.

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