1,000-Acre Wildfire Reported on Colorado Southeastern Plains

May 30, 2006

A wildfire quickly spread to 1,000 acres on Colorado’s southeastern plains on Saturday, fed by strong winds.

The fire was burning on 600 acres in the Comanche National Grassland and the rest was on private land south of the town of Kim in Las Animas and Baca counties, said Cass Cairns, a spokeswoman for the Grassland and the Pike and San Isabel National Forests.

The sparsely-populated area is dotted with ranches separated by miles of cedar and steel post fences. No information was immediately available about whether any homes were in danger and the cause wasn’t known, Cairns said.

Rancher Lon Robertson, who helped fight the fire, said the fire missed the nearest home by about a half-mile.

He believes the fire started with a permitted, controlled burn of some brush on Wednesday which spread into some canyonlands, where it smoldered until Friday, when the temperature reached about 100 degrees. He said it then spread over a mesa and, on Saturday, winds gusting up to 30 mph caused the fire to make a run of about 3 1/2 miles on the flat, open grasslands until it was stopped by a road. He said the outside edges of the fire were controlled by nightfall.

“There’s not much vegetation but grass but everything is very dry,” said Robertson, who estimated the fire area had only received about 4 inches of precipitation since last August.

Despite the hot, dry weather and fire restrictions, six abandoned campfires were reported in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests on Saturday, including one illegal fire that was not in a fire grate and was not in a developed campground, Cairns said.

Meanwhile, in southwestern Colorado, firefighters were able to hold a wildfire at 530 acres on Saturday.

The Black Ridge fire near Durango was 90 percent contained and full containment was expected Sunday evening as long as winds don’t pick up, fire spokeswoman Pamella Wilson said.

Near Durango, winds up to 45 mph had been forecast but gusts only got up to about 20 mph. That blew a lot of dust and ash around but didn’t cause any flareups or spotting outside of the containment lines, Wilson said.

“We’re very encouraged that winds didn’t create more of a problem for us,” Wilson said.

About 190 firefighters were working on the fire on Southern Ute lands but officials planned to start sending some home. So far, it’s cost $572,800 to fight the fire.

Wilson said the fire was started by some of the lightning that hit the area on Monday and Tuesday and flared up later after winds picked up.

In northern Colorado, 3-acre fire northwest of Lyons was fully contained Saturday morning. It was also caused by lightning.

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