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Federal command team to hand over control of Lightner Creek Fire

Burn area mapped at 412 acres; all residents allowed to return home
New mapping puts the Lightner Creek Fire at 412 acres, slightly more than the 206 acres previously reported.

A federal incident command team that has overseen the Lightner Creek Fire plans to step down Tuesday and hand over control to state team.

The Lightner Creek Fire remained at 95 percent contained Monday morning. The size remains at 412 acres, a slight increase over previous estimates of 406 acres – not because of new fire activity, but as a result of more accurate mapping, according to the incident command team.

Residents from all 170 homes evacuated during the fire have been allowed to return to their homes. Roads near the burn areas, including county roads 207 and 208, remain closed to the public. Residents who live along those roads have received “rapid tag” cards that allow them to get past checkpoints.

Firefighters will patrol the fire’s perimeter on Monday. Smoke may continue to be visible at times, but any fire activity is well within the controlled edge of the containment line, the incident command team said Monday morning in a news release. Fire crews will be released from the fire as they complete their work.

With nearly full containment, Rocky Mountain Team Black will transition management of the fire back to the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and the Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday morning. A Type III incident management organization – consisting of an incident commander, one engine, and one helicopter – will continue to patrol the fire as necessary.

The forecast Monday calls for gusty winds out of the west-northwest, with a slight chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. Winds are expected to be 10 to 15 mph with gusts of 20 mph. Relative humidity is expected to increase slowly through the week.

Despite the success in containing the Lightner Creek Fire, the potential for another wildfire remains high due to dry vegetation, high temperatures and low relative humidity. Fire officials urge homeowners living in the wildland urban interface to create defensible space around their home.

All recreation trails in the “Test Tracks” area west of downtown Durango remain closed, including Hogsback, Leyden and Hidden Valley trails. The Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Parks and Wildlife have closures in place on public lands east of County Road 208. U.S. Forest Service trails in the Dry Fork area leaving the Colorado Trail into the above referenced closure are marked with signs indicating the fire closures in the Perins Peak Wildlife Area.

The Lightner Creek Fire started Wednesday at a home 4.25 miles west of downtown Durango. The Durango Fire Protection District arrived nine minutes after receiving the call, but by that time, the fire had spread into the surrounding wilderness where flames ran up a hillside and eventually “spotted” to the east side of the valley, sparking a larger fire.

Firefighters have not yet determined the cause of the fire that started at Christine Polinsky’s home. In an interview with Fox31 out of Denver, Polinsky said she left her home for 35 minutes and returned to find it engulfed in flames.

Polinsky said she has no idea how the fire started.

“I’m beyond devastated,” she said. “I appreciate everyone reaching out and being so kind.”

shane@durangoherald.com

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