Dolores Ranger District fire crews conducted burnout operations Tuesday on the Knolls Fire before the arrival of a weather front that is expected to bring rain and possible snow by midweek.
The Knolls Fire, which began around Nov. 2 near Lone Mesa State Park, is still at 317 acres, and burning with occasional single-tree torching in ponderosa pines. Burnout operations are expected to increase the size by about 45 acres, according to a news release from Ann Bond, of the San Juan National Forest.
Smoke is visible in the Dolores area, on Colorado Highways 145 and 184.
According to the National Weather Service, there’s a 30 percent chance of rain and in Montezuma County on Thursday, with a high temperature of 40 degrees and an overnight low of 14 degrees. In Dolores County, there’s a 20 percent chance of snow on Tursday, with a high of 44 degrees.
The Knolls Fire was naturally caused by a lightning strike in ponderosa pine forests at about 8,200 feet in elevation in a remote portion of the San Juan National Forest four miles southwest of Lone Mesa State Park at the Montezuma-Dolores county line.
The fire has been actively managed to play its natural role in making forests more resilient to future fire, insect or disease.
A crew of 15 firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management initially responded earlier this month to conduct burnout operations to confine the fire within a predetermined area near between Forest Roads 514 and 510.
A slow-moving weather system the first weekend of November brought rain and snow to the area, and reduced the already low-intensity blaze.
Crews managed the fire in the same way they did the Long Draw Fire, which burned about 300 acres near Lone Mesa State Park in June. Firefighters set controlled burns along the roads to keep the fire from spreading, and allow it to burn itself out. Crews are currently focusing operations and patrols along the Dry Canyon Road (Forest Road 510), which is south of the Salter Y intersection and Forest Road 514. Undeveloped private land exists two miles to the north, and firefighters are focusing efforts to make sure the fire does not spread in that direction. Crews will continue to patrol the area as long as the fire burns.
Montezuma County and the surrounding areas have seen unusually warm, dry weather this fall, which might have contributed to the fire’s spread in early November. Meteorologist Jim Andrus, of Cortez, said he only measured 5 percent of the normal rainfall for the area this October.
“The weather has been much warmer than normal this year, and we’ve received very little rain,” he said. “I’m sure the forest up there is quite dry.”
He said he wouldn’t be too surprised if there were more small fires in the area before winter. According to the Cortez Fire Protection District’s website, the current fire danger is “high.”