CRESTONE, Colo. – A small fire is burning on the Rio Grande National Forest approximately 1 ½ miles northeast of Crestone. The Burnt Gulch Fire is estimated to be ¼ acre in size and is burning in mixed conifers on a rocky ridge top.

“Our firefighters are currently monitoring the fire from the valley floor as we review our options,” said Saguache District Ranger Jim Pitts. “Firefighter safety is my first priority and this fire is located in a rugged area that is difficult to access.”

Lightning is the suspected cause of the fire, but since firefighters have not been on site that hasn’t been confirmed. More fires are likely to pop up over the next few days as thunderstorms pass over the mountains.

“All fires on the Forest are managed,” said Pitts. “Depending on their location and several other factors, we decide how to manage them.”

Rather than immediately fully suppressing all fires, a decision may be made to monitor a fire rather than unnecessarily put firefighters into unsafe situations. A lightning started fire may also be managed for a variety of objectives including reducing the buildup of dead material to minimize the risk of future large fires.

An important point that Pitts want residents and visitors to understand is that there may be situations where they will see smoke for several days in the mountains above the San Luis Valley, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t being managed.

Ultimately, Pitts’ primary goals are to ensure firefighter and public safety, and protect valuable infrastructure, but there may also be times where lightning started fires are managed to meet natural resource objectives.

To report a fire on federal lands, other than one that is already being managed, contact the Pueblo Interagency Fire Dispatch Center at 719-553-1600.