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Vallecito fire running into Weminuche wilderness area
10/31/2012 By: Carole McWilliams
Photo courtesy Anne Cook
Here is a Friday afternoon update on the Vallecito fire from the U.S. Forest Service. It's growing, but now moving to the west. Let's hope for some rain or snow!
The Vallecito Fire was reported on October 16 and is located west of Vallecito Reservoir and County Road 501 on the San Juan National Forest. The Reservoir is about 20 miles north of Bayfield, CO. The fire is believed to have been started by lightning that is still burning dead and down trees and occasional standing snags. The fire is burning within the perimeter of the 2002 Missionary Ridge fire. The terrain is steep and danger to Fire Fighters from falling trees has prompted Fire Officials not to attempt direct fire suppression tactics. Aircraft are still essential in helping to control the spread of this fire.
On the north side, dozers lines are in place from County Road (CR) 501 up to Freeman Park and from CR 501 behind Sawmill Point into lower Jack Creek drainage. Hotshot crews felled snags along this line to make it defensible. It was developed to help protect the homes on Hummingbird Lane and Ho Hum Drive, should the fire make a move northward. The fire is 25% contained.
The Durango Interagency Type 3 Team transitioned the fire back to the East Columbine Ranger District on Oct. 22.
On Thursday, the Tushar Mountain Wildland Fire Module (a 10-person crew) and a Type 3 Incident Commander transitioned into this incident. Delaying and confinement tactics will be the strategy until a significant wet weather event occurs. Persistent dry weather is forecasted for the next couple of weeks.
Fire activity increased yesterday afternoon producing a 100 acre run up to the head of Jack Creek drainage crossing the Endlich Trail and is approaching the Weminuche Wilderness producing a vertical smoke column visible from the entire Pine River Valley. Minimal spotting was observed up to 200 feet.
There are no values at risk to the North and West. The fire is still backing into other areas of Jack Creek with private land and homes within a mile. Holding plan utilizing a logging road is in place to minimize southern and eastern movement.
The Vallecito fire had grown to 459 acres as of Tuesday night, according to Columbine Ranger District public information officer Charlie Armiger, who is here from Arizona to provide fire updates.
One of those as of late Wednesday morning was a just reported fire on Missionary Ridge near the relay tower. It was then burning one-fourth to one-third of an acre and could be a holdover from a previous lightning strike, Armiger said.
It is called the Haflin fire. It�s north of Haflin Creek on a south-facing slope, in the area burned 10 years ago. It�s 1.5 to 2 miles east of County Road 250.
Engines were responding but hadn�t reached the site as of Wednesday noon. A helicopter also had been requested.
As for the Vallecito fire, which has been putting up significant smoke plumes the past couple afternoons, Armiger said it is burning on the ground, creeping along looking for something to burn. �It finds a pocket of fuel stacked in the right way and gets going,� he said.
Humidity goes up at night, and the dead fuel takes in moisture. �It smokes more than it burns,� Armiger said.
The Vallecito fire is getting a containment strategy rather than active firefighting, he said. A 20 person hotshot crew was leaving Wednesday and being replaced by a 10 person wildland crew.
A medium duty helicopter was dropping water along the fire perimeter. It can carry around 250 gallons per trip, Armiger said.
The district has six wildland engines that came in on Tuesday for initial attack as needed. Armiger speculated that they were on their way to the new Haflin fire.
He is posting fire updates and photos on inciweb.org.
The Forest Service is urging hunters and anyone out in the back country to be very mindful of the current fire danger.
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