County sees multiple lightning-sparked fires

Blaze near Lake Nighthorse burns 2 acres; no houses lost

Wildland firefighters Jordan Barnett, left, and Scott Nielsen from Durango Fire & Rescue Authority direct a water drop on a fire between Lake Nighthorse and Animas Air Park on Wednesday afternoon. Hal Doughty, deputy chief of operations for the DFRA, said the blaze was probably caused by a lightning strike and it consumed close to 2 acres. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Wildland firefighters Jordan Barnett, left, and Scott Nielsen from Durango Fire & Rescue Authority direct a water drop on a fire between Lake Nighthorse and Animas Air Park on Wednesday afternoon. Hal Doughty, deputy chief of operations for the DFRA, said the blaze was probably caused by a lightning strike and it consumed close to 2 acres.

Officials believe a lightning strike caused a small fire near Lake Nighthorse reservoir early Wednesday morning.

The fire started about 5:20 a.m. It burned about 2 acres, but no structures were threatened, said Dan Bender, spokesman for the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.

The fire was between Animas Airpark and the reservoir. It was not accessible by vehicle, so firefighters had to hike in about a mile to reach it, Bender said.

Durango Fire & Rescue Authority responded to the call and had about 10 firefighters battling the blaze until the Lightner Creek Fire broke out on Lightner Creek Road (County Road 207) at about 12:45 p.m.

Firefighters dug a containment line around the fire and have it 100 percent contained.

A helicopter dropped water on several hot spots within the fire line.

“Due to remoteness (of the fire), we called in the helicopter to drop water to help us control the fire,” said Dan Noonan, DFRA fire chief.

DFRA responded to two other lightning strikes.

Los Pinos Fire Protection District responded to 12 lightning strikes and spent Wednesday making sure each of them were extinguished, said Tina Naranjo, administrative assistant for the district.

The Upper Pine River Fire Protection District responded to two strikes. One of the strikes started a quarter-acre fire that firefighters were able to extinguish and mop up Wednesday, said Randy Larson, deputy chief of operations.

The biggest concern as the area transitions into monsoon season is ignition from lightning strikes, Noonan said.

Because there is no moisture in the ground, a fire is able to run along the ground instead of staying in the trees when there is a lightning strike.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has put a red-flag warning in effect from 11 a.m. today until midnight for dry thunderstorms that will be capable of producing erratic wind gusts up to 40 mph.

“As we transition from no moisture to getting some moisture, lightning becomes a great concern because we can potentially have hundreds of strikes,” Noonan said.

jdahl@durangoherald.com

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