Wildfire season arrives early

Warning issued as controlled burn gets out of control

Fire season has arrived early in Southwest Colorado, firefighters warned Thursday.

A controlled burn on Red Ridge Road in the Animas Valley north of Durango got out of control Thursday afternoon, scorching one acre, said Karola Hanks, fire marshal with Durango Fire & Rescue Authority.

The landowner built his burn piles, obtained a burn permit and informed dispatch he would be burning, Hanks said.

“(But) pretty soon, he wasn’t burning piles,” she said. “He was burning the hillside.”

Southwest Colorado is in a drought, and it received below-average moisture this winter, she said. Even though the dirt looks moist, the vegetation has very little moisture, she said.

Hanks said, “We don’t see a change in the immediate forecast that gives us any indication that we’re going to be getting the moisture that we would hope for.”

It is safest to burn early in the morning and have fires out before the winds pick up in the afternoon, Hanks said.

“It’s spring in Southwest Colorado, so we acquire wind almost every afternoon,” she said. “Therefore, you want small piles so they’re completely burned through by the time that wind picks up.”

She asked residents to report their controlled burns to dispatch before burning. If the land is not designated as agricultural, landowners need to obtain an open-burn permit from their local fire department. There is no fee associated with the permit.

People also need to check the weather forecast to make sure there are no red-flag warnings and have water nearby, she said.