The month of June has seen several wildfires impact the San Luis Valley region.  The biggest fire, the West Fork Complex, has caused the evacuation of the town of South Fork and the closure of highway 160 over Wolf Creek Pass and highway 149 from South Fork to Creede.  The fire, which is now several fires that grew together, started on June 5 due to lightning.   The start area was in rough terrain northeast of Pagosa Springs and west of the continental divide and grew steadily.  By June 19 and 20 the fire, due to dry windy conditions, really took off, crossing the divide heading to the town of South Fork.  It was said by one fire official that the chances of saving South Fork was “low to moderate”.  However, a massive response to the fire has so far saved the town. The Wolf Creek Ski area is also threatened and fire lines are being created to try and protect it. Currently there are over 900 personnel, ground and air support fighting this fire.  As of June 27, the fire was listed as being at 81,000 acres.  The West Fork fire has brought days of heavy smoke into the San Luis Valley.

Saguache County fires

The Ox Cart fire, southeast of Poncha Pass in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, started on June 6 due to lightning.  It has now grown to 1150 acres.  As it started originally in steep terrain in a wilderness area, it was allowed to burn per forest service management plan, and grew slowly. But, it too took off with persistent hot, dry and windy weather.  When it began spreading to the north, and spot fires started on the east side of the range, forest officials decided to contain the fire. Hot shot and hand crews plus helicopters have been called in to fight the fire.  It is clearly visible from Highway 285.

Two other fires in Saguache County were reported on June 20.  The Trickle Fire, 14 miles northwest of the town of Saguache, was started by lightning; and the Sheep Creek Fire, 20 miles northwest of Saguache in the Rio Grande National Forest (cause undetermined). Both of these fires were quickly contained. As of June 23 the Trickle Fire burned 277 acres and Sheep Creek 21 acres.

A fire ban has been declared for Saguache County and the National Forest and all public lands.  See accompanying article.

For updated fire information visit www.inciweb.org, or Colorado Office of Emergency Management at www.coemergency.com.  The Crestone Eagle posts current regional fire reports on its website, www.crestoneeagle.com