Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Airpark Fire update Tuesday morning from:

Durango Interagency Dispatch Center
San Juan National Forest * Bureau of Land Management * National Park Service
Colorado State Forest Service * Bureau of Indian Affairs

Air Park Fire Update – July 24, 9:00 AM
Late-day rainfall on Monday decreased fire activity across much of the Air Park Fire area. Firefighters came off the fire beginning around 6:00 PM due to the rain. Growth was very moderate yesterday and the fire is now 5% contained.  The fire has burned 499 acres; 405 acres of S. Ute land and 94 acres of Bureau of Reclamation land.
Firefighters conducted a firing operation Monday to test the conditions for a potential burnout. In doing so, they were able to secure the north end of the fire in the vicinity of the dam.
A reconnaissance of the fire area this morning showed virtually no smoke on the west and south sides of the fire. Air tankers dropped a lot of retardant in these areas yesterday and then hand crews followed with line construction.
The large bowl on the east side of the fire is where fire managers had hoped to conduct a burnout. Due to yesterday’s precipitation, the burnout will not happen. Firefighters will be looking at building line in key areas to keep the fire from spreading eastward.
There were approximately 150 fire personnel on the fire Monday. Some fire personnel will be released today and some are being staged since the Rocky Mountain Region is experiencing numerous new fire starts. Three helicopters will be available today to assist firefighters with dropping water on hot spots as needed; there will not be any air tankers.
There have been no injuries or accidents. Cost to date is $145,000.
Contact:  Pam Wilson, Public Information Officer, 970-799-1179.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Airpark Fire Update Monday 11:40

Crews planned to back burn around the East flank to protect Animas Airpark and Dam infrastructure. Hand crews were to build fireline around several anchor points and a bulldozer was set to work on Southeast corner and the west side. We heard recently that two air tankers and a SEAT were to begin operations soon. Last night the fire was estimated at 514acres and likely grew some overnight. The fire is burning on Southern Ute Tribal lands and BIA has command of the fire.
Pre-evacuation for Trappers Crossing remains in effect on the West side of the fire even though the first house in the subdivision is over 2 miles from last night's fire perimeter. Fire behavior will be dependent on wind and we are watching for thunderhead development around the region. Higher humidity, calm winds and a bit of rain yesterday and last night helped keep the fire less intense.
Expect smoke to impact Durango and much of the area for the next few days.

Please be courteous to other drivers and emergency vehicles, don't become a hazard to others while trying to view the fire from roadways.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Airpark Fire Update

The “Airpark Fire” was reported around noon today and is burning west of Animas Airpark, primarily on Southern Ute Tribal Land.  At last report, the fire was estimated at 500 acres, but the active fire behavior we had seen this afternoon has subsided and the fire behavior has calmed for the evening.  The fire was burning to the west and may be visible from County Road 210 at the south side of the lake and the smoke plume is visible from a large portion of the County. 

Local, federal and Tribal firefighters will be on scene and watching the fire overnight and the fire management teams are developing a plan of attack for tomorrow. 

A pre-evacuation order was issued this afternoon for Trapper’s Crossing subdivision.  The forecast is for calm winds tonight, but the order is still in place and residents in and near Trapper’s Crossing should remain vigilant through tonight and tomorrow. 

La Plata County’s emergency notification system (commonly referred to as “Reverse 9-1-1”) now includes cell phones and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).  Residents of La Plata County may now register up to five cell or Internet phone numbers with their physical street address, ensuring that emergency notifications are received even when residents are not at home or don’t have a land line.  To sign up, visit the County’s website at www.co.laplata.co.us.

For preparedness information and early information and updates on emergencies in progress, citizens can follow OEM on Twitter at: @LPC_OEM.  To follow updates by text message without joining Twitter, just text “FOLLOW LPC_OEM” to 40404 on your cell phone and you will receive all updates posted by the La Plata County Office of Emergency Management by text message.

Pre-Evacuation orders given for Trappers Crossing

County Road 210 may have limited access due to high Emergency traffic

Airpark Fire now estimated at 500 acres. Local and Federal crews are battling fire West of Animas Airpark and South of Lake Nighthorse

From US Forest Service:


U.S. Forest Service w Bureau of Land Management w National Park Service w Bureau of Indian Affairs w Colorado State Forest Service

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sunday, July 22, 2012, 6:15 p.m.
Airpark Fire now estimated at 500 acres

DURANGO - The Airpark Fire, reported at noon today south of Durango, has grown to an estimated 500 acres. The fire has crossed over the ridge to the west and is headed towards Lake Nighthorse.  Two heavy helicopters and 2 heavy air tankers are ordered and en route.

Ann H. Bond
Public Affairs Specialist

Thursday, June 28, 2012

La Plata County Search and Rescue Looks For Lost Mountain Biker

Tuesday night, a mountain biker failed to return from a solo ride in Hermosa. The 31y.o. experienced cyclist planned to ride Jones Ck to Pinkerton-Flagstaff Tr to Dutch Ck Tr and back out Hermosa Ck Tr. La Plata County SAR was notified late that night that he had not returned as planned. The weather was somewhat thundering and wet but warm enough for staying out. Overnight, his car at the South Hermosa Ck Trailhead was checked and crews were organized. 
Teams left on the trail shortly after 7:AM Wednesday morning. Two pair of bikes made a quick sweep of the most likely areas. By 11:00 Hermosa Ck Tr, Jones, Pinkerton, Dutch, Elbert Ck Rd, and Little Elk were swept, but teams had found no sign. Mountain Bike teams, Horse teams and foot crews re-traversed the most likely trails and expanded into Goulding, Elbert and Big Lick trails. All trails on the West side of Hermosa Ck were covered. Once a helicopter was freed from dropping water buckets on fires, two SAR members were flown through likely drainages in the hour of light left on the mountain. They found nothing. By about 8:PM all 20 people in our search crews were out of the field. 
SAR coordinators began putting a plan together for another day of searching. We planned to comb his intended path in case of an off trail accident and search the drainages known to draw in lost souls. 
Years of experience has told us that if a person misses the Dutch Ck turnoff on the Pinkerton trail, they are likely to drop into Little Elk or even Elk Ck. By following cow trails, de-commissioned pack trails, old roads and other features; people are drawn deeper westward into tighter canyons. 
Our subject did exactly that, taking over 16 hours to cow trail and bushwhack down through Elk Ck to Hermosa Ck Tr. He was able to exit on his own at about 9:30 PM 

We were all very glad to hear him out safe. Thanks to all the friends and volunteers who gave up their daily life and helped yesterday. 

When you go into the woods, even just a little PLEASE take a good map showing trails and contours. In Hermosa, all real trails are marked by a 6x6 steel post showing coordinates, trail name and what they are open to. Watch for false trails!

When you go into the woods, even just a little PLEASE have a current CORSAR card [Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search And Rescue Card] or a current outdoors license that pays into the fund (hunting, fishing, OHV registration) . The volunteers depend on funds in the CORSAR to fund training and equipment and the County Sheriff depends on the fund to reimburse for extra expenses like the helicopter to come find you. 

It's easy and hardly cost a thing to maintain all the SAR volunteers in the State. Head to your nearest outdoor shop or go to:

LaPlata County Fire Update

Thursday morning roll-up: Information from various sources...

Lightner Ck Fire: 

The Information Hotline is no longer active. It will be re-activated if the need arises. Current information can be found through http://www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan

The Pre-evacuation notices for CR 207/208 are still in effect until further notice. 


San Juan National Forest * Bureau of Land Management * National Parke Service
Colorado State Forest Service * Bureau of Indian Affairs

As of 5:30 PM, the LIghtner Fire was estimated at 60 acres. Retardant lines along the top and shoulders of Barnroof Mountain were holding well and the fire had not spread beyond the north side of Barnroof.  A SEAT and two helicopters worked the fire until about 7:30 PM. There were two 20-person crews building containment line along the lower portions of the fire but no estimate of containment was available. A light rain began falling around 7:00 and the humidity level was up to 45% which should moderate fire behavior.

Though the immediate threat to homes has lessened greatly, Durango Fire & Rescue Authority notified residents in the area that they would remain under a pre-evacuation notice until 3:00 PM Thursday. An engine will patrol County Road 208 tonight to watch for spot fires.

The Escarpment Fire, burning near Mesa Verde, was estimated at 50 acres. Firefighters will not be on the fire overnight, but approximately 30 firefighters will be on scene tomorrow.

Firefighters responded to 20 new fires today across southwest Colorado. Many were just single trees burning after being hit by lightning, but several got larger like the Lake Nighthorse 1.7 acres), Escarpment, and Lightner Fires.

Pam Wilson
Fire Information Officer 

Weber Canyon Fire:

June 28, 2012  9:00 a.m.
Contact: Beth Hermanson, Public Information Officer
Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team C
Phone Number: (720) 425-5018 or (720) 219-8823
Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Satellite Information Center: (Walk-in) Mancos Community Center 10:30 a.m. to 5:30p.m.

Weber Fire Showed Little Growth Yesterday

MANCOS, Colo. - Firefighters continue to make progress on containing the Weber Fire near Mancos, Colorado. More mop-up has been completed along burned areas on the fire perimeter, bringing the containment up to 35 percent. The acreage has been revised to 9,279 acres due to more accurate mapping. There was minimal fire growth yesterday.

With the cooler, more humid weather the last two days, firefighters have been able to work on more of the indirect containment lines. These lines are forming a “box” for the expected growth of the fire. As the fire spreads down the steep, rugged slopes and firefighters burn out the fuels on the edges of the fire, the chance of the fire spreading beyond this box is greatly decreased.

One tool being used to help create containment lines is a masticator or hydro axe. This is a rubber tired machine that operates much like a big lawnmower, which grinds up vegetation, making it less likely to burn.  It is being used to cut a swath through twenty-foot tall dense vegetation west of East Canyon, creating a fuel break. Firefighters can burn out safely from this line to clean up fuels and keep the fire from spreading further down the slope.

Today’s forecast is calling for a shift toward warmer, drier weather with a chance of dry lightning in the afternoon. The extended forecast is for a warming and drying trend through the weekend.

The evacuation order has been lifted for homes on the east side of County Road 41, north of the County Road G junction, affecting about 30 residences. The mandatory evacuation order remains in effect for residences south of County Road G, south of Highway 160 north of the fire, and on the east side of the fire, including the Elk Spring Ranch and Elk Stream Subdivisions.

Highway 160 and Mesa Verde National Park are open. County Road 41 is open south to County Road G. The portion of County Road 41 south of County Road G is still closed.

The next community meeting is scheduled on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Mancos High School Performing Arts Auditorium. 
Information about this and other fires can be found at www.inciweb.org. Follow us on Twitter @weberfireinfo.


State Line Fire

Crews are maintaining a vigilant watch and continuing to extinguish any remaining hot spots. 

Little Sand Fire


U.S. Forest Service w Archuleta County  w  Hinsdale County w Bureau of Land Management w National Park Service w Bureau of Indian Affairs w Colorado State Forest Service
Little Sand Fire Daily Update – June 28, 2012 7:30 AMSan Juan National Forest
Community Meeting
 Vallecitos Community Center
6:00 pm June 28, 2012

Overall activity was quiet on Wednesday. Incident Operations reported some light moisture over the fire and generally cooler conditions. Resources assigned to the Little Sand Fire assisted the San Juan National Forest with response to two very small fires caused by lightning activity. A helicopter was also dispatched to assist in the suppression of the Lightner Creek Fire near Durango.  Within the southwest perimeter of the Little Sand Fire, movement occurred to the west side of the Davis Creek drainage into an area previously treated with prescribed burns in 2009. It remains north of the Piedra River.  Little activity was observed in other areas.

Conditions today are forecast to be drier with a Red Flag Warning in place from 11:00 am to midnight due to heat, lower humidity, and winds with the possibility of dry lightning from nearby thunderstorms. Early morning air inversions will continue to create smoke problems in lower areas associated with the fire.

Resources from the Little Sand Fire will continue to assist the San Juan National Forest in responding to new fires in areas near the main fire.  Fire resources will protect structures in the Weminuche Valley.  Personnel will be evaluating potential contingency options if the fire should cross to the east side of the Valley.  Crews will also be watching for spot fires south of the Piedra River.

In the Vallecito area, the Slide Mountain Trail is closed at the end of Beaver Meadow, and the East Creek Trail (FT 535) is closed at the North Canyon Trailhead.  All other trails in the Vallecito area are open.  Other closures exist for areas immediately adjacent to the fire.  The Poison Park Road (FR 644), and the portion of the Piedra River Road (FR 631) that leads to the Poma Ranch are closed due to fire activity.  Closure information may be found at offices of the San Juan National Forest.
Recreation areas along the Piedra River corridor leading to the Williams Creek Reservoir and ending at the Palisades Horse Camp are open for visitors with the exception of Williams Creek Campground. Guides and outfitters are open for business and rerouting their trips as necessary to avoid the fire.  Pagosa Springs and the Vallecito areas are open for business as usual.
Fire Statistics at a Glance:
Start Date: May 13th, 2012               Cause: Lightning                 Acreage: 23,400
Containment: 31%                             Personnel: 234                 Hand Crews: 3
Structures Destroyed: 0                    Aviation: 4 helicopters        Engines: 13
Dozers: 1                                             Injuries: 0                       Cost to Date: $5.910 Million
Cooperating Agencies: Hinsdale County, Archuleta County, USFS, CSFS

Information on the Little Sand Fire may be obtained by calling (970) 444-2201 or from the following web sites: 
Archuleta County: http://www.acemergency.org/


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Little Sand Daily Update from SJNF

From the Little Sand Fire management team. Vallecito Community Meeting 6PM Thursday at their Community Center. Be sure to check out more links at the bottom of the release


U.S. Forest Service w Archuleta County  w  Hinsdale County w Bureau of Land Management w National Park Service w Bureau of Indian Affairs w Colorado State Forest Service
Little Sand Fire Daily Update – June 26, 2012 8:00 AMSan Juan National Forest
Community Meeting
 Vallecitos Community Center
6:00 pm June 28, 2012
A Red Flag Warning will be in effect over the fire from noon to the evening hours Tuesday because of the threat of dry lighting over the fire with gusty outflow winds and dry fuels.  Outflow winds could reach 45 miles per hour from any storm that forms.  
Tuesday Fire fighters will continue to protect structures in the Weminuche Valley, keeping the fire from advancing to the east , and keep the fire north of the Piedra River. Firefighters will also look for opportunities to engage the fire to the west and northwest.  Crews will work along the Baldy Mountain Trail, widening it in preparation for holing the fire there. Southwest morning winds will be light, increasing to 10 to 12 miles per hour with gusts to 20 as the day progresses.  Day time temperatures will be in the mid 80 degree range with humidity in the 10 to 15 percent.
Monday, the fire made runs on the east slope of Davis Creek drainage at the confluence with the Piedra River.  There were no more spots south of the Piedra.  Low intensity ground fire continued in the area above the Poma Ranch in the Weminuche Valley.  There was minimal activity on the north end of the fire as the fire encountered numerous aspen pockets.  On the western side, the fire continued to be confined to the ridgeline separating the Coldwater Creek and Sand Creek drainages. There was no advance of the fire towards the Vallecito area thirteen miles west of the fire.
During the afternoon on Monday, resources from the Little Sand Fire assisted in the successful suppression of a 10 acre fire near the Chimney Rock Archaeological area.  An air attack plane and a heavy helicopter were used along with personnel from Durango Helitack which were assigned to the Little Sand fire.  One of the helitack crew assumed the duties of incident commander.
Smoke dispersal around the fire will be poor in the early morning hours with improvement expected around noon as wind and temperature levels increase. Information on smoke densities can be found on links provided on the Inciweb site to smoke monitors located at the Sportsmans Campground area and Piedra River, the State air quality site, and smoke health information.
Poison Park Road (FR 644) remains closed to non-emergency traffic until further notice. The Piedra River Road (FR 631) to Poma Ranch is closed at the “Y”. A closure has been placed on an area to the north of the junction of the Piedra River and Coldwater Creek.  The closure includes adjacent trails.  Details on the closure may be found on the fire’s Inciweb site.  There are no closures in the Vallecitos area.

Day-use recreation areas near Williams Lake, and other Forest Service campgrounds in the area, remain open to the public. Private campgrounds and businesses in the Piedra area are also open. Guides and outfitters who normally work in the area around the fire have rerouted trips and are still in operation. Pagosa Springs and the Vallecito area are open for business as usual.

Information on the Little Sand Fire may be obtained by calling (970) 444-2201 or from the following web sites: 
Archuleta County: http://www.acemergency.org/

Fire stats at a glance:
Start Date: May 13th, 2012
Cause: Lightning
Acreage: 22010
Containment: 31%
Personnel: 220
Hand crews: 3
Structures Destroyed: 0

Cooperating Agencies: Hinsdale County,
Archuleta County, USFS, CSFS
Aviation: 4 Helicopters
Engines: 13
Dozer: 1
Injuries: 2
Cost to Date: $5.42 Million


Monday, June 25, 2012

La Plata County Fire Monday Update

Today, La Plata County OEM played some catch up to put together the weekend activities and update the Board of County Commissioners on wildfire conditions. Much of our daily work revolves around preparing for potential incidents, training, education, evacuation planning and identifying risks and hazards. We have to maintain plans and contacts and we represent the community and County Government during incidents. We don't fight fire, we try and look out for the community interest to let the others do their job.

With all that is going on we weren't able to get out int he field. Luckily we aren't under siege as many other communities are. Conditions are  incredibly volatile right now and any spark can start a fire: campfires, charcoal, cigarettes, engines without spark arrestors, cars parked on tall grass, rubbing two sticks, fireworks. PLEASE BE CAREFUL! Until rain saturates us we are vulnerable.

Since we weren't out in the field today, here are some links to fire information. If you see a column of smoke, remember to check these sources, often the management teams will place fire activity information here. If it is near these fires, the air resources will probably be on anything new.

Weber Fire: http://www.inciweb.org/incident/2937/

State Line Fire: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/sanjuan/news-events/?cid=STELPRDB5376150

Chimney Rock: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/sanjuan/news-events/?cid=STELPRDB5376152 we have heard that the resources int he area attacked this new start and kept it from spreading. We hope to have an update in the morning

Little Sand Fire: http://www.inciweb.org/incident/2878/ on this page you will see a multitude of links for information. Archuleta County and the NIMO incident management team have done an amazing job of keeping information flowing.

Weber Fire Weekend Update

La Plata County remains out of the woods; for now. Winds kept most of the Weber Fire activity on the west side of Menefee Mt. over the weekend as it moved towards the west side valley floor and into the central ridge lines.

The homeowners on the Eastern edge of the fire in East Canyon have proven how well pre-planning and defensible space can work. The homeowners worked on individual spaces and community wide preparations. Fire fighters have used their roads and yards to fortify lines, perform back burns and helicopters have been dipping buckets in their pond for days. In other words, the mitigation work gave firefighters the time and safety to protect the homes better. So far, the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) worked. Hopefully the firefighter's work will hold but that is still up to the fire as the winds shift back to (out of ) Southwest today. 

Thanks Firewise and USFS (and many others) for your support and guidance here in SW Colorado. We'll have pictures of the mitigation after the fire calms down and we can breathe a bit.

Check out http://www.southwestcoloradofires.org/FireWise/default.htm for more info about getting your neighborhood Firewise and developing a CWPP. If you contact them, be patient, he local Firewise organizers are working on the fires right now.

Here are some more pictures from Saturday afternoon and Sunday Morning:

Saturday Mid Day
2012-06-23 Weber Fire

Saturday Afternoon
2012-06-23 Weber Fire

Sunday Morning and Afternoon
2012-06-24 Weber Fire Afternoon

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Weber Fire Pictures 2

Weber Fire 2

Weber Canyon Fire Moving North in Montezuma County

On Friday, June 22, a fire started south of Highway 160 just west of Mancos Hill in Montezuma County. The fire is burning on BLM and private property west of La Plata County and is currently moving north. At 12:30 p.m. today, it was estimated to be at 2,500 acres in size. There is a regional response with numerous pieces of equipment coming from surrounding communities and approximately 131 fire personnel working on the fire. Multiple agencies from the federal level down to local departments are on scene. A Type III management team has been called to manage operations.
Evacuations were made in Montezuma County, however no evacuations have been ordered in La Plata County. Residents in the area of C.R. 105 (Cherry Creek) have been informed of the situation by the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office who told them to be prepared for possible evacuation if the need arises.
For preparedness information and early information and updates on emergencies in progress, citizens can follow OEM on Twitter at: @LPC_OEM. To follow updates by text message without joining Twitter, just text “FOLLOW LPC_OEM” to 40404 on your cell phone and you will receive all updates posted by the La Plata County Office of Emergency Management by text message. Citizens can also follow the San Juan National Forest Twitter at: @SanJuanNF for additional updates.

Weber Fire Photos 12:30 PM

Weber Fire Photos

Weber Fire

Weber Fire Still Growing

Fire managers expect another day of very active fire behavior.  Approximately 131 fire personnel are working on the fire today.  Aircraft will be available to support firefighters; however, with three active fires occurring in Colorado, aircraft availability may change throughout the day.  Below is a photo of the slurry bomber on the fire last night (courtesy Dan Bender, Sheriff's Office).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stage II Burn Restrictions for La Plata County

Go to http://co.laplata.co.us/  for copies of the original release and Board Resolution

Text from the Press Release:                                                                

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            

For additional information, please                                                                                           June 20, 2012
contact: Butch Knowlton at xxx-xxx-xxxx                                                                                  11:55 a.m.
La Plata County Commissioners Enact Stage II Fire Restrictions

Durango, COLa Plata County continues to experience above-average temperatures, dry winds, low humidity, and no rain.  As a result of these conditions, La Plata County now has extremely dry conditions that can provide explosive fire growth and behavior.  Developing drought conditions and larger wildland fires in the Southwest and other regions of the U.S. have lead to equipment and personnel shortfalls which limit response abilities from federal and regional response teams.  The La Plata County Board of County Commissioners today enacted Stage II fire restrictions effective immediately on open burning in the unincorporated areas of La Plata County and upon all lands owned by La Plata County excluding those private lands in the Towns of Bayfield and Ignacio, the City of Durango, or any State, Federal or Tribal lands. 

“All standing and ground fuels have continued to dry and are now brown in many areas of the County which increases the potential for the ignition of a wildfire,” explained Butch Knowlton, Emergency Management Director.  “Extreme drought conditions and larger wildland fires have lead to equipment and personnel shortfalls which limit our response abilities to new wildland fires.  It’s so important for everyone to be responsible and adhere to these restrictions, because one spark could lead to disaster.”  Mr. Knowlton strongly cautions against the use of fireworks, saying “The greatest concern I have for a wildfire is the use of fireworks.” 

Stage II fire restrictions build on the Stage I restrictions and prohibits the following activities:

•         Open burning, burn barrels and agricultural burning within all private land in the unincorporated areas of La Plata County and within all land owned by La Plata County.

•         Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, coal or wood-burning stove, any type of charcoal fueled broiler, or open fire of any type, except that mechanical stoves and appliances fueled by bottled or liquid gas (such as gas grills), which allow the operator to control and extinguish the flame with a valve are permitted.

•         Smoking in any open area where dry grasses or other combustible material may be present, except within an enclosed vehicle or building.

•         Using explosive materials (i.e. fireworks, blasting caps or incendiary devices that may result in the ignition of flammable materials), except that public fireworks displays celebrating July 4, 2012 under the control of local fire departments or licensed fireworks professionals approved by the local authority having jurisdiction will be permitted, and blasting in development areas or construction areas with a continuous fire watch will be permitted with written authorization of the appropriate fire chief or the Sheriff of La Plata County, whomever has jurisdiction.

•         Welding or operating an acetylene or similar torch with open flame, except that welding and cutting will be permitted with the following requirements: (1) a 40-foot diameter safe zone free of vegetation, (2) a 2-1/2 gallon pressurized fire extinguisher or a 5lb ABC extinguisher or a pressurized water supply and proper hand tools must be on site, and (3) a fire watch individual must be standing by continuously.  Further, oil and gas welding and cutting operations which are required to comply with the requirements of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Rules for Fire Prevention and Production, Rule 606A(o), shall be permitted and must be conducted with a 40-foot diameter safe zone.

•         Operating or using any internal combustion engine without a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order meeting either Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Standard 5100-1a or Society of Automotive Engineer (SAE) recommended practice J335(b) and J350(a).

•         Operating a chainsaw without a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher of not less than 8 ounces capacity by weight, and one size 0 or larger round pointed shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches.  The extinguisher shall be with the chainsaw operator. The shovel may be kept with the fueling supplies but readily available.

•         Flaring for oil and gas production wells and production facilities, except that flaring may be allowed in the following circumstances: (1) any flaring from established refineries is permitted, or (2) flaring is permitted with the approval from the designated fire chief (or his designee) for that district, or in the event no fire district exists for the location of the proposed flaring, the La Plata County Director of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM Director).  In advance of any flaring, operators shall notify the La Plata County Emergency Communications Center at 970-385-2900 and the Ignacio Dispatch at 970-563-4401 or (970) 563-4402.  Further, prior to the installation of a drilling rig, operators are required to file a “Production Well Emergency Response Information Form” (posted to the La Plata County Website) with the La Plata County Office of Emergency Management informing the OEM Director of the location, duration (state date/end date/work hours) and work information of active work sites (pipelines, workovers, drilling, and completion).

For specific information about the fire restrictions, individuals should contact their local fire department.   A violation of the fire restrictions shall constitute a class 2 petty offense punishable by a fine of up to $300 for each violation. 

The fire restrictions were enacted by the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners upon the recommendation of Sheriff Duke Schirard and the Chiefs of the local fire districts.  The restrictions do provide flexibility to the local fire chiefs to ease restrictions within their respective jurisdictions, if they deem such actions to be safe, appropriate and prudent in their professional opinions.  There are four fire districts within La Plata County serving specific areas of the County.  To request a special exception permit to burn, please contact a fire department listed below based on the location of the property:

  • Durango Fire and Rescue Authority (for properties in the Animas valley corridor from the north county line to New Mexico), visit http://www.durangofirerescue.org/prevention.html to fill out the online permit, or call 382-6023.
  • Upper Pine Fire Protection District (for properties east of Bayfield north to Vallecito), please call 884-9508;
  • Fort Lewis Mesa Fire Protection District (for properties in west La Plata County surrounding Hesperus to the Colorado/New Mexico state line on Highway 140), please call 238-0115; or
  • Los Pinos Fire Protection District (for properties in the southeast corner of La Plata County and surrounding Ignacio), please call 563-9501.

The La Plata County fire response agencies will continue to monitor the situation and if the conditions continue to deteriorate, a more restrictive fire ban may be developed.  The fire restrictions will remain in effect until such time as the threat of fire danger in La Plata County has reduced significantly, as determined by the Sheriff, local fire chiefs and/or County Director of Emergency Management.

(Note: A copy of the Board’s resolution is attached.)


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Preparing yourself for wildfire

This year we remember the Missionary Ridge Complex ten years after it hit our community. To this day, the 72,964 acres is the second largest Colorado wildfire on record. The fire was dubbed the "Worst terrain fire in the country" in 2002. The Complex, made of the Missionary Ridge Fire and the Valley Fire, destroyed 56 homes and 27 outbuildings after actively burning for 37 days. A study performed after the fire put a total cost of the fire at $152,000,000. Of that cost determined by ASTM, $90,276,323 was attributed to fighting the fire. The cleanup, reconstruction and rehab, which the community is still working on, cost almost $54,000,000 as of 2005.

We learned a lot during and after the fire, mostly about what to expect during a disaster. La Plata County doesn't get too many disasters and this one was a biggie. Every year we have the possibility of getting get a drought, a flood, a fire, a big snow. We can expect some sort of community wide incident every year; very few have the span of effect of a major fire. During a major wildfire we get: federal management teams, an army of volunteers, huge volumes of donated goods, national media, damaged natural resources, tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent, strung out emergency workers, evacuations, shelters, a fire city inside our city... the list goes on. It doesn't stop right afterwards: burned homes, scared public, dangerous forest, mudslides, tenuous water supplies, decades of forest recovery, roads and infrastructure to rebuild...

One of the biggest lessons we learned was that we can't do it all. County government is limited in money, people power and resources. We have limitations. We ask that you do all you can to prepare yourself, your family and your property for emergency situations that may impact you.
It has been shown that years ago before people interfered in the natural process many areas of SW Colorado burned every 10 to 15 years. The fires were generally more mild and kept balance in the forest. Southwest forests were "Fire adapted". For the last hundred years people have suppressed wildfire. During that time the grazing and logging, aside from other negative impacts, helped to keep the forest fuels more balanced than they would have otherwise with the policy on fire suppression. Now the logging is gone, the cattle are gone, the ladder fuels are abundant, trees are smaller and closer together, duff is deeper than the grass; in general the forests are stressed. Fire is supposed to be naturally regenerative. Today the fires are big, intense and catastrophic.

In the case of a wildfire you may have days or minutes to prepare. The more prepared you are before a fire, the less worried you will be when fire comes. 

  • Prepare yourself
  • Prepare your family
  • Prepare your car
  • Prepare your animals
  • Prepare your home
  • Prepare your neighborhood
  • Spread the word

Prepare yourself:

If you live in the alpine, sub-alpine, forest, mesa, "PJ" country, high desert, mountain valley, or anywhere else in La Plata County: you live with wildfire. Our weather changes every year and every day. Normal has a lot of latitude SW Colorado. Fire fuels change as often as our weather. Needless to say, you should be ready for wildfire in any year. 
Ready Colorado has some great tools and information: ReadyColorado.com
  • Make sure your insurance is up to date and know what is covered and you have what the agent needs to help you recover (pictures? serial numbers?)
  • Protect your important documents in a safe deposit, fire safe or fire box
  • Back up your hard drives and keep copies away from home 
  • Create a personal recovery plan for records of passwords, account numbers and other important information
  • Make a plan: Where will I go? What do I take? How do I contact ____ ? How will ____ contact me? 
  • If you can't get out on your own, do your neighbors know to check on you? Fire and law enforcement will be busy. Your neighbors are getting out just like you, . 
  • Make sure you know how you will you get emergency notification and evacuation orders. Sign up your cell, internet, IP, e-mail and text Here, Find out more about other methods Here
  • Make a kit. Having a "go kit" in case you have to evacuate with food, meds, clothes, important phone numbers (in case you phone is lost) and spending cash will make showing up at a shelter much more pleasant for you.
  • If you rent your home, be sure to have documentation of you living there so you can be allowed in when restrictions begin to lift (lease, bills, mail, etc) if your drivers license doesn't have your current address listed. 
  • Mentally be prepared Once you think about what to do it makes doing it and dealing with it much easier. 

Prepare your family:

Now that you are ready (since you are reading this, you get to help your family get ready) it is time to turn to everyone around you. 
  • Have an evacuation plan: How to get out of the house, what to take (personal go kits), how to drive out, another way to drive out. 
  • Designate a meeting place if your family spread out already
  • Designate an out of town contact to coordinate and gather information from all of you so you can all meet up again. 
  • Keep phone numbers of family, their school, business, best friend's house or favorite bar handy so you can find them

Prepare your car:

Now that your people are prepared you need transportation
  • Keep your car tidy. Make sure you always have space for you and your loved ones. In the middle of an evacuation isn't the time to take out the laundry and clean up fast food wrappers. 
  • Keep your tank at least half full. Worrying about if you're going to make it while having to drive the long way around the fire to town is not what you want to do. 
  • Keep something to clean your windshield in your car (a rag and water will do). You'd be amazed how well ash sticks to dirty windshields. 
  • Keep some food and water in your car at all times. You may be there a while. 
  • Park facing out. It makes loading quickly easier and saves time when you need it most. 
  • Keep a map of your area in your car. You might need to find a back route out. 

Prepare your animals:

Hopefully you will have time to take your animals. If you do you need to have a plan. 
  • Make sure your animals have a go kit just like you (food, water, spare leash, bowls, meds, ID)
  • Dogs and cats are usually easy to move. If you have a horse you need a way to move it other than your Subaru. Work with friends and neighbors to team up on transporting big animals. Talk to friends ahead of time about having a stall or pasture away from your neighborhood to go to. 
  • Be aware that shelters may or may not have the ability to handle animals. Even if they do, it will be very limited. 
  • If you have to leave your livestock be sure they have ample food spread over several areas. Make sure they have food and water to last about a week. Don't depend on on-demand watering. If power goes out on your well or other water supply is damaged you may not be able to help. 

Prepare your home:

As a fire develops fire crewsFire crews will assess a subdivision or area and determine what homes they have the best chance to defend. There may only be one truck in a subdivision and they can't save everything. If your home looks like they may get trapped, or they can't turn around on your road, or you have done nothing to prepare for wildfire yourself: your home will fall to the bottom of the list. Wildfire starts homes on fire in three major ways: 1) creeping on the ground through grass or duff which lights the sides of your home or under a deck on fire, 2) direct flames from burning fuels against or near your home, 3) Heat exposure and burning embers - heat from burning around your home can break windows or ignite fuels like gasoline and embers can be blown into vents, into gutters or through open windows. 
There is a wealth of information regarding preparing your home for wildfire. Firewise is one of the best resources along with the Colorado State Forest Service. 
There are several things you can do to give your home a chance. 
  • If you are buying or building a home, think about how a fire crew could access and protect your home. Ask a fire fighter if you have question
  • You should adapt your landscape to defend against wildfire by thinning fuels, clearing fuels against your home, keep your gutters and roof clear. 
  • If you store gas cans firewood outside, store the material away from your house 
  • When you leave
    • Close your windows and lock your doors
    • Leave a note that tells fire and police that you left

Spread the word:

Make sure your neighbors sign up for La Plata County's Emergency Alert Connect to get emergency notifications on their cell phones.
A fire adapted community is much better than one fire adapted home. A neighborhood working together is much safer than an "every man for himself" attitude. Work together with your neighbors to build resilience into your entire neighborhood. Learn from each other and build off each others strengths. Get involved with Firewise, be an ambassador, develop a community wildfire protection plan, get grants to help your property and others.

Friday, June 8, 2012

X-Rock Fire

Fire on Animas Mountain near X-Rock was dispatched at about 16:15 this afternoon. Fire reached about 2 acres on the steep slope next to the popular climbing area. Currently, DFRA and Federal hand crews are working on the ground to contain the fire from growing any more. One heavy, one medium and one light helicopter are dropping buckets now.
We ask that people avoid driving Hwy 550 or Animas View Drive while helicopters are working the fire. Both roads are being closed periodically for safety as the helicopters are carrying buckets very close to ground level. Use CR 250 if you can.
The Public Release is at the Bottom or this post.

Lt. Bender with La Plata County Sheriff's Dept. was able to get some pictures of early activity.

“X-Rock Fire” Burning on Animas Mountain

Durango, CO – At approximately 4:10 p.m., a wild fire, which has been identified as the X-Rock Fire was reported.  This fire is located on Animas Mountain near the 3800 Block of Main Avenue, just north of the Colorado Department of Transportation Offices. 
The fire is burning on lands owned by the City of Durango and La Plata County and may threaten Federal lands. Durango Fire and Rescue Authority and Federal Crews have responded to the wild fire.  The fire is estimated to be approximately 1.5 to 2 acres at this time.  The cause of the fire is unknown.
Two helicopters has been dispatched to provide water drops on the fire and a two seat single engine airplane has been ordered out of Cortez and is expected within the hour.
Highway 550 will be closed intermittently while the helicopters cross the highway.  Motorists are encouraged to use an alternate route. 
For additional information, please contact Karola Hanks with Durango Fire and Rescue Authority at (970) 769-7689.

Friday, April 6, 2012

La Plata County Emergency Alert "Reverse 911"

La Plata County's Emergency Alert System: Target Notification

This is the primary alerting system in La Plata County. CenturyLink land lines are automatic. All other phone types NEED TO SIGN UP!

The alert system uses phones to call a geographic area and give emergency messages. Emergency personnel pick a point on a map and give a radius or draw a boundary on a map. The system picks up LAND LINE phones associated to an address in an identified area. This means your CenturyLink (formerly QWest) phone should be picked up automatically. Other phones like Cell, Digital, Voice over IP (VoIP), Skype, Cable (phone connected to your digital TV coax cable), and other systems are NOT included; UNLESS: You register your phone with our Target Notification alert system! If you live in or own a home in La Plata County Go to Intrado's Target Notification registration page. This allows you to register multiple phones of any phone system and attach them to your address. This is what you must do to get notifications on any phone other than your land line. The registration page will ask you for your name and address. This should be your name as owner or occupant of the house. The site will also ask you to put wireless/cellular in one column and Internet based VoIP in the other.

Each phone system operates differently and uses different protocols to dial out so the numbers need to be separated.  Target Notification will not use your numbers for any other purpose than to facilitate La Plata County Emergency Calls so please don't worry about telemarketers.

It takes a few days for the system managers to verify your cell and other numbers so do it now. Don't wait till we are in the middle of a disaster. It may be too late. 

You can add multiple numbers to one address. A phone number can only be associated with one address in La Plata County. You can not list your cell at more than one address.

Our emergency messages should be structured for you to understand what is happening:

  • Messages that go out will start with something like "This is an Emergency Message from The La Plata County Sheriff and Office of Emergency Management..." to let you know who is sending the message. 
  • We will issue messages like "A wildfire is spreading towards ___ subdivision north of Durango" letting you know where and in relation to what, in case you get a call on your cell while on vacation in Texas. 
  • We will give an action item of what to do like shelter in place, prepare for possible evacuation later, or to evacuate immediately. 
  • We will give you direction for what to do for the action like close doors and windows, drive South towards the high school or where the shelter is. 
  • Last will be where to get more information such as a radio station, phone number, or a place to go.
Other agencies like Fire and Police have access and their own protocols for using the alert system.

La Plata County OEM will try and do the best we can with getting messages out but remember that you need be responsible for your own personal safety. If you see smoke heading your way or a rising river, call 911 and do what you need to do to protect yourself and your family.

Other Emergency Alert and Information Sources from La Plata County

When an emergency or disaster strikes La Plata County, responders have many ways to get messages out to you besides our Target Notification "Reverse 911" system.
  • Drive-through Sirens - Sheriff or Fire vehicles using combination of sirens and Public Address
    • We may utilize people power to get immediate emergency messages out. If you see a Sheriff vehicle with lights and sirens rolling through the neighborhood slowly - PAY ATTENTION what they say may save your life!
  • Weather Radio - Emergency Management can use this system for more than weather.  
    • La Plata County OEM maintains close ties with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. If the situation warrants, we can have them launch an emergency alert over their Weather Radio system for our area. We may use it for wildfire, hazardous material spill, or any life safety incident that may affect a broad portion of the County
    • NOAA maintains the weather radio system across the country to keep everyone up to date on weather emergencies. The system sends a tone to special weather radios that is followed by an emergency alert like flash flood warnings, tornado warning, etc. All day, the radios are transmitting weather reports behind the scenes. We listen daily to the morning reports to give us an idea of climate and forecast for the area. 
    • Battery operated weather radios are fairly inexpensive from online, Radio Shack or even Walmart. Take a look on google. To get local alerts, each radio has to be programmed with the associated local "SAME" code. Ours is 008067. If you have a VHF radio or scanner you can listen to the 24/7 broadcasts at 162.425 MHZ. 
    • Fore more on NOAA Weather Radios check out http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/  and our local tower information at  http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/Maps/PHP/site.php?State=CO&Site=KWN54 
  • Media - We utilize newspaper, websites and commercial radio 
    • La Plata County has a very active Public Information Network made up of information specialists from law enforcement, fire, government, volunteer groups, local businesses and many others. When emergencies arise, the group goes into action to get messages to our citizens through every channel needed and available. We can target the message by using local radio and the Durango Herald or go bigger and include news agencies from Albuquerque and Denver. 
  • Twitter - @LPC_OEM - you don't have to have twitter to get tweets
    • La Plata County OEM maintains a twitter account to put our some of the alerts and notifications quickly. We try and keep up with National Weather Service weather alerts and big events that may impact you. If La Plata County OEM is involved in an incident, we will most likely update the twitter feed regularly of how the incident may impact you.
    • We regularly put our weather events with links to the NWS alert. We try and put out alerts like "Fire Dept is responding to a report of smoke in the 9000 block of CR 999" when we become involved in an event. 
    • To get the feed:
      • Bookmark  http://twitter.com/#!/lpc_oem
      • If you have your own Twitter account, follow @lpc_oem
      • If you don't have a twitter account you can get the feed by text. send "follow lpc_oem" to the number 40404 and you will get a text when we send a tweet
      • This blog is linked to the twitter feed so what happens on one shows on the other. 
      • The  http://co.laplata.co.us/emergency page shows the twitter feed as well. 
  • La Plata County Website -  http://co.laplata.co.us/emergency
    • In bigger events, the La Plata County website home page will show an alert. If you go to the home page  http://co.laplata.co.us/ and look in the left hand side under "How do I find" and you should see a green dot next to "EMERGENCY ALERT". When we post an alert the button turns red. If you click the button the page that pops up will have alerts and official County statements. 
  • Door-to-Door - knocking door-to-door or posting letters at your property
    • When all else fails, we may go door to door to get the message out. La Plata County Sheriff Deputies and Fire personnel will likely be the first out on this duty.  Sheriff's Mounted Patrol and La Plata County Search and Rescue (SAR) will likely be more involved as an event goes on. Sheriff Deputies or Fire personnel may come to your door without flyers in hand. Look for their badge and official vehicle. Mounted patrol and SAR should be in their uniform and should hand out flyers with official statements and direction of where to get verification of those statements.