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Wildfire west of Pagosa Springs prompts evacuations

Small number of homes threatened, none lost to 120-acre blaze
The Chris Mountain Fire west of Pagosa Springs is estimated to be 120 acres in size. (Courtesy of San Juan National Forest)

A fire reported Wednesday afternoon 12 miles west of Pagosa Springs prompted the evacuation of a small number of ranches along Forest Service Road 628 and was zero percent contained as of midday Thursday.

Personnel with the San Juan National Forest estimated the fire to be 120 acres in size, however a lack of aerial firefighting resources has hindered the gathering of information.

The cause of the fire was a lightening strike, said SJNF spokeswoman Lorena Williams.

No firefighters were on the ground Wednesday, Williams said, because of dangerous conditions. Flames reached 50 to 100 feet in height as the fire spread through the crown of the forest’s Ponderosa pines.

An air tanker dumped retardant and water Wednesday, which prevented the fire from spreading overnight.

None of the handful of structures in the area have been lost, and firefighters set up hoses around building perimeters overnight Wednesday.

Williams said the focus of firefighting efforts is to protect structures along Forest Service Road 628 and prevent the fire from spreading downslope into the Devil Creek drainage. Firefighters scouted the area to develop a plan and reinforce a mid-slope fire line Thursday and received support from the largest class of firefighting helicopter and a “large” air tanker, capable of carrying 2,000 to 4,000 gallons of fire retardant.

“There is really strong competition for air resources throughout the Southwest and the Rocky Mountain region, and so we are not able to acquire the number of aviation resources we would like to have,” Williams said.

A complex incident management team was slated to takeover operations sometime Thursday evening.

Smoke is visible from surrounding communities, officials warn, and San Juan Basin Public Health is monitoring nearby air quality. Detectors in the area indicate that air quality monitors in Pagosa Springs was “good” as of Thursday afternoon.

The Chris Mountain Fire is one of two burning in the southwest corner of Colorado – the Arkansas Loop Fire that ignited Tuesday 21 miles south of Durango had grown to 126 acres as of Wednesday evening.

For the most up-to-date information on the fire, visit the InciWeb site.


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