By Pam Wilson
This lightning-caused fire continues to burn slowly across the landscape. The fire was detected on July 25 in the Pine Tree Canyon area about 5 miles north of Arboles. Instead of suppressing the fire, the Southern Ute Agency Fire Management Branch has chosen to manage the fire to allow fire to play its natural role in the ecosystem. The fire, which began on a ridge top, is burning with low intensity in ponderosa pine and oak brush fuels. The fire is currently estimated at 27.5 acres.
Numerous fuels treatments to reduce ladder fuels and create openings in the canopy have occurred in the area over the past 10 years, making this an ideal location for allowing fire to play its natural role. Mastication treatments leave behind chopped-up material, known as “activity fuels” on the ground. Fire will help remove these fuels as well as needle litter and other debris on the forest floor.
Firefighters are creating dozer and handline along the southern and western perimeters, tying into Pine Tree Road on the east and Sheep Canyon Road on the north. The total potential area that fire may be allowed to burn is about 700 acres in size. Fire managers plan to conduct an aerial ignition operation on Monday or Tuesday, as conditions allow. As line is created today, firefighters will be conducting small firing operations using drip torches to create a “black line” around the perimeter. Today’s weather calls for good smoke dispersion.
The Durango Interagency Type 3 Team assumed management of the fire this morning at 7 a.m., with Rich Gustafson from the Southern Ute Agency serving as the incident commander. There are currently about 75 personnel, several engines and a helicopter supporting the fire.
There are no closures in effect; however, the public is urged to avoid the Ignacio Canyon road if possible, as fire vehicles will be using this road.
For more information regarding the fire, please contact the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Fire Management Office at (970) 563-4571 or Fire Information at (970) 799-2926.