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Bear Dance Fire sparks east of Ignacio; power cut to about 2,500 customers

Blaze torches about 20 acres of brush willow and cottonwood trees
A Type 1 helicopter drops water on the Bear Dance Fire east of Ignacio town limits on Friday. The fire had burned about 20 acres as of 4:30 p.m. Friday, but no structures had been lost. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

A large brush fire consumed about 20 acres and caused power to be shut off to more than 2,500 customers Friday afternoon on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation near Ignacio.

The Bear Dance Fire was reported at 12:23 p.m. behind the Bear Dance campgrounds just east of Ignacio town limits. No structures had burned as of 4:30 p.m. The cause of the blaze remained under investigation.

At 1:30 p.m., La Plata Electric Association cut power to about 5,700 customers in the Bayfield and Ignacio areas because power lines were in the way of where fire resources were working, said Hillary Knox, a spokeswoman with the electric co-op.

More than 5,700 customers were without power because of the Bear Dance Fire near Ignacio, according to La Plata Electric Association. The electric co-op cut power to allow firefighters to do their work safely. (Courtesy of La Plata Electric Association)
More than 2,500 La Plata Electric Association customers were without power as of 1:30 p.m. Friday because of the Bear Dance Fire near Ignacio, according to LPEA. The electric co-op cut power to allow firefighters to do their work safely. (Courtesy of La Plata Electric Association)

Power was restored at 2:20 p.m. to about 3,200 homes and businesses in the Bayfield area, according to LPEA. But power remained out as of 4:30 p.m. Friday for 2,500 customers in the Ignacio area.

Knox said restoring power to Ignacio will depend heavily on what happens with the fire. She said power was cut as a safety precaution and in preparation for air resources.

A single-seat air tanker drops slurry on the Bear Dance Fire on Friday as it burns east of the Sky Ute Casino near Ignacio. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“Apparently, our lines are directly over their drop zone where they want to be dropping water and retardant,” Knox said.

Lindsay Box, spokeswoman for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, said Ignacio residents affected by the power outage should expect it to continue into Friday evening because a power pole was “impacted.” She said the pole was within range of the fire.

The Bear Dance Fire started on the east side of the Pine River but managed to reach the west side. It was burning north through brush willows and cottonwood trees, Box said.

Flames from the Bear Dance Fire reach into the trees Friday east of Ignacio. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Several county roads were closed, including County Road 321 at the intersection of Bear Dance Road and Ute Park Road, according to the tribe and scanner traffic.

Box said the Southern Ute tribal campus was evacuated and a pre-evacuation alert was issued for about 25 homes along county roads 516 and 517 near Sundance Road. The pre-evacuation was lifted about 5:30 p.m., and some of the roads reopened. The Ute Sky Casino closed Friday in response to the pre-evacuation alert, Box said.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe campus was evacuated and roads closed during the Bear Dance Fire on Friday east of Ignacio. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Drivers were asked to refrain from driving in the area while crews respond.

Initial responding agencies included the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Southern Ute Fire Management Office, U.S. Forest Service and Los Pinos Fire Protection District, Box said. Durango Fire Protection District also was assisting. A Type 3 federal management team was called in to take over command of the fire.

A helicopter and an aircraft carrying fire retardant were at the scene, she said.

Firefighters were working to contain the fire to the river bottom.

cburney@durangoherald.com

A large brush fire started behind the Bear Dance campgrounds in the Ignacio area, according to a Facebook message from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. (Courtesy of Jess Dunbar)
A dust devil moves through the Bear Dance Fire on Friday carrying up smoke and ash east of Ignacio. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)
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