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Chris Mountain Fire, west of Pagosa Springs, nearly 50% contained

Firefighters focus on burnouts, establishing fire lines
Firefighters spray down the burn area of the Chris Mountain Fire. (Courtesy of Ari Lightsey)

The lightning-caused Chris Mountain Fire, which was first reported June 28 in the San Juan National Forest 12 miles west-northwest of Pagosa Springs, had grown to 511 acres and was 46% contained as of Friday morning.

Firefighters are focusing on containing the fire by securing fire lines on both the western and southern edges, said Cass Cairns a spokeswoman with the Rocky Mountain Incident Command Team.

To do so, crews are working to establish “contingency fire lines” that work to starve advancing fires of additional fuel.

The Chris Mountain Fire, 12 miles west of Pagosa Springs, had grown to 511 acres and was 46% contained as of Friday. (Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Incident Management)

Contingency fire lines can be roads, trails, bulldozed paths or rock outcrops, Carins said.

“Essentially, they’re places with very little vegetation,” she said.

Firefighters hope the contingency fire lines prevent the fire from spreading further into Devil Creek Drainage.

Crews have also conducted a burnout operation on the fire’s southeastern edge to prevent the fire from moving off Forest Service land and onto Snow Angel Ranch.

San Juan National Forest has a closure in effect for Forest Road 689 and mandatory evacuations in place for a handful of ranches in that area.

A red flag warning remains in effect as a result of low relative humidity and the potential for high winds that may gust up to 40 mph.

Even if a fire appears to be contained, high winds and “squirrelly” multidirectional winds brought in by thunderstorms can cause the fire to spread in unpredictable directions and beyond the fire lines, creating dangerous conditions for firefighters.

In addition to containing the fire, crews are performing suppression repair that aims to return affected areas to pre-fire conditions “as closely as possible.”

“Suppression repair is important (because) it brings the land back into its natural state as much as possible,” Carins said. “It’s all part of the healing process. If (crews) widened a trail or a road, they would then do repair work to take it back to where it was in the first place, that type of thing.”

A news release issued by the incident command team predicts conditions will stay hot and dry, leaving fuels “receptive to burning” in the coming days. Even so, Carins said the Chris Mountain Fire is on the downturn and infrared scans show the temperatures are low.

lveress@durangoherald.com



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