Mother Nature lends a hand in fighting Air Park Fire

Officials hoping for 100% containment Thursday

Delino Brown, right, and other members of a hand crew from Dulce, N.M., worked on the Air Park Fire with two other crews from California. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Delino Brown, right, and other members of a hand crew from Dulce, N.M., worked on the Air Park Fire with two other crews from California.

Rainfall and zero fire growth has prompted government officials to lift a pre-evacuation notice for 146 homes that were threatened earlier this week by a 500-acre wildfire southwest of Durango.

Dozens of firefighters were called off the fire, which was 75 percent contained as of Tuesday evening, said Pam Wilson, spokeswoman for the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center. Officials are estimating they will achieve 100 percent containment by 7 p.m. Thursday.

The fire put up virtually no smoke Tuesday. A “burnout” operation, in which firefighters set fire to a hillside to reduce fuels, was canceled as a result of increased precipitation.

As many as 150 fire personnel were working the fire, but only about 70 remained on scene Tuesday. Others were placed on standby in case of new startups.

“We’re demobilizing people very fast right now,” Wilson said. “Things are winding down fast.”

Several small lightning-sparked wildfires were reported Tuesday afternoon after an electrical storm passed through the Durango area.

Firefighters who stayed on scene helped build fire lines in key areas to keep the fire from spreading, Wilson said. All air tankers were called off, Wilson said.

“If we get a good rain, they’re thinking this could be pretty well done with,” Wilson said. “It’s pretty quiet out there.”

The cost of the fire as of Monday evening was $225,000.

The lightning-caused fire started Sunday south of Lake Nighthorse and spread to 400 acres in one afternoon.

The fire had burned 499 acres as of Tuesday evening, including 405 acres of Southern Ute Indian land and 94 acres of Bureau of Reclamation land.

Authorities placed 146 homes on a pre-evacuation notice Sunday evening, meaning those residents were told they might need to evacuate at a moment’s notice. The notice was lifted at 9:30 p.m. Monday because of the rain, said Butch Knowlton, director of La Plata County’s Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Two hot-shot crews and a fire safety officer planned to work the fire today, Wilson said.

Control of the fire is expected to be passed to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe at 5 p.m. today.

shane@durangoherald.com

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