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Smoke building from Weber Fire controlled burnout

By Shane Benjamin Herald staff writer

A large-scale burnout conducted Friday on the north end of the Weber Fire sent smoke 30 miles eastward toward Durango, and it may continue today.

The goal was to eliminate fuels on the north end of the fire and prevent the fire’s advance toward U.S. Highway 160, according to the federal incident command team fighting the fire.

“We need to fight this fire on our own terms,” Incident Commander Joe Lowe said.

If the burnout went as planned, fire managers planned to do another controlled burn today on the south end of the fire near the junction of Weber Canyon and East Canyon.

“This is the last large area of fuel near the fire perimeter,” according to a news release from the Bureau of Land Management. “Burning this area will make the Weber Fire much less likely to escape from the lines, bringing the fire much closer to full containment.”

The Weber Fire was 9,279 acres and 45 percent contained Friday. A juvenile is suspected of starting the fire, but authorities have not identified a cause.

Lightning is to blame for several small fires that popped up during the past few days in the region, some of which were considered contained or controlled as of Friday evening.

Three wildfires were reported in the southern HD Mountains southeast of Bayfield, said Pam Wilson, spokeswoman for the Durango Interagency Dispatch Center.

The largest one, called the Ponderosa Fire, was reported at 4:45 p.m. Thursday and burned about 13 acres, Wilson said.

The Lightner Creek Fire, about three miles west of Durango, is 90 acres and was 75 percent contained as of Friday night. Two fire crews and two engine crews were assigned to the fire Friday, bringing the total personnel to about 50 people. Because of rugged terrain and high temperatures, firefighters were unable to fully contain the fire as they hoped. The fire will be turned over to a Type 4 incident commander today. One 20-person crew, one tactical water tender and one safety officer will continue working on strengthening the containment line and extinguishing hot spots, Wilson said.

Non-residents are asked not to use County Road 208 because of fire traffic on the road.

The Escarpment Fire on Ute Mountain Ute land northeast of Mesa Verde National Park was 30 percent contained and 26 acres in size. Thirty firefighters were working to contain the blaze.

Some firefighters working on the Little Sand Fire near Pagosa Springs turned their efforts to two new fires Friday afternoon. The fires were started from lightning stories in the area Thursday. One fire near the confluence of O’Neal Creek and the Piedra River was contained at less than 1 acre. A second fire near the confluence of First Fork Creek and the Piedra was contained at 6 acres.

Lightning strikes often smolder for several days and flare up with warm temperatures and high winds.

People can report smoke on private land by calling 911 or smoke on public lands to the Durango Interagency Dispatch Center at 385-1324.

shane@durangoherald.com

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