U.S. Forest Service officials over the weekend acknowledged that a prescribed burn near Ouray could have sparked the Simms fire that has burned 373 acres and destroyed one home.
Angry residents, in a Saturday town hall meeting streamed on Facebook, confronted fire officials over the decision to conduct the fire mitigation operation during extremely dry and windy conditions.
“After all these red flag warnings, why? Why did you set the fire in the first place?” one resident asked.
Others told county officials that they called dispatch over and over last week to report smoke and flames. Fire officials said they had personnel patrolling the area, but left just before the flames sparked Thursday.
“Residents, we take precautions because we live here,” one individual said during the meeting. “We do what we do to not start a fire… What I did not hear was, ‘I’m sorry.’ Not one, ‘I’m sorry.’”
The wildfire, which started Thursday and is burning 14 miles southwest of Montrose, was 90% contained as of Monday morning.
According to the Ouray County Plaindealer, the fire has destroyed a home, an RV and a shed.
Prescribed burns have been in the spotlight in recent weeks after New Mexico’s largest-ever wildfire was determined to have been partly fueled by intentional burning. The head of the U.S. Forest Service on Friday announced the suspension of all planned burns on national forest lands while the agency reviews the practice.
These burns are conducted to restore forest health, thin built-up fuel and prevent much larger fires. Experts say they’re necessary as human-driven climate changes increases the size and scope of fires across the West.
High Park fire
The wildfire outside Cripple Creek stands at 1,573 acres with 89% containment, the Colorado Department of Emergency Management announced in a tweet Monday.
All road closures and evacuations related to the wildfire were lifted over the weekend.
Weekend snow was expected to dampen the flames, and crews are transitioning to rehabilitation for the area, fire officials said in a Friday update.
The wildfire outside Pagosa Springs is burning 721 acres with 33% containment, according to a Monday morning update on InciWeb.
Cool, cloudy weather has aided fire crews working on this fire, though warmer weather is expected later this week.
Crews plan on Monday to work around structures in the Lost Valley of the San Juans subdivision, fire officials said. With most of the perimeter secured, firefighters will focus on patrolling and mop-up duty.
The fire, which sparked Tuesday, is still under investigation.
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