Crews from multiple agencies including the Dove Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service worked Tuesday to put out hot spots and reinforce the containment line around a wildfire west of Cahone.
By Wednesday afternoon, the fire was extinguished, said Pleasant View Fire Chief Jeff Yoder.
“We will continue to monitor for hot spots,” he said. “All the agencies worked well together fighting this fire. Having the air support early on was crucial.”
By midmorning Tuesday, the fire was smoldering and smoking on 21 acres of private land near County Road N a few miles west of U.S. Highway 491 in Dolores County.
Dan Kaufenberg, BLM incident commander for the fire, said the goal was to reach full containment Tuesday and turn the fire over to local agencies if it didn’t grow. He estimated that the fire was 70 percent contained on Tuesday afternoon.
“We are mopping up hot spots and securing containment lines,” he said Tuesday during a short tour with The Journal.
“Efforts by local departments, air support, and the winds dying down last night helped us out,” said Logan Davis, a BLM incident commander trainee.
But when the fire was discovered Monday evening, fire behavior was high, Kaufenberg said, with flames 20 to 30 feet high in the trees and 5 to 8 feet high in the sagebrush.
There was concern that the fire would spread out of Alkali Draw and into adjacent canyons, where it could have been pushed northeast by winds toward structures and homes a mile away.
Air support was called in Monday evening, and a helicopter and two single-engine air tankers dropped retardant on the fire, according to Grant Allen of the Dove Creek Fire Department.
On Tuesday, 40 to 50 firefighters battled the blaze, including an Interagency Hotshot crew. The fire burned on private land about a half-mile northeast of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument’s border.
No road closures or evacuation orders were given, and no structure damage was reported.
Dolores County road crews provided water tankers and a D8-R dozer that plowed containment lines.
Jake Kline, Dove Creek Volunteer Fire Department chief, said that when he arrived Monday afternoon the fire was torching trees, and the wind was swirling.
“Now we’ve got a line all the way around and are reinforcing it,” he said.
“It was going pretty good, and multiple agencies jumped on it hard,” said Ralph Sublett, a volunteer with the Egnar-Slickrock Fire Department. “It had the potential to really take off.”
Firefighters were called to the scene about 5 p.m. Monday. The fire began in piñon-juniper brush around Alkali Draw, then quickly spread north-northeast, fed by south-southwest winds, said Patrick Seekins, fire management officer of the Dolores Ranger District of the San Juan National Forest.
Seekins credited a heavy and fast response for the firefighters’ success. “We had a lot of aviation,” he said.
The fire was blamed on a lightning strike. Allen reported that Dove Creek firefighters extinguished a “little smoker” on Sunday after a lightning strike, but that a flyover in the afternoon failed to find evidence of another fire.
The National Weather Service forecasts continued dry, hot weather through Monday, with daytime high temperatures in the upper 80s and overnight lows in the lower 50s.
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.