- By Jim Mimiaga
A fast-moving wildfire – reportedly started by someone burning trash – is burning in a rural neighborhood south of Dolores and has triggered evacuations and road closures.
The wind-fueled blaze had burned more than 400 acres as of Wednesday night, according to the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office. It started around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, initially moving south but then veering northeast in front of the swirling winds.
The fire reportedly began at roads P.5 and 29 some time Wednesday morning.
“We know it was human-caused and we have a person of interest,” said a sheriff’s department spokesman Wednesday evening.
A brush fire also started two years ago at P.5 and 29, according to a July 12, 2010, report by the Cortez Fire Protection District. That report stated that “Cortez Fire, Dolores Fire and Lewis Arriola Fire along with the USFS responded to a brush fire located at Road P.5 and Road 29. The fire was possibly started by a control burn that got away. Structures in the area were threatened but the fire was kept away. The fire started around noon on Monday, July 12, 2010.”
As of Wednesday night, 30 homes had been evacuated around county roads 30 and S.2, and many more residents had been blocked from returning to their homes while fire crews battle the blaze. The fire was burning in a rugged canyon on the west side of Highway 184.
Fire officials met with a crowd of 100 worried residents at the Dolores Community Center Wednesday night.
“Residents east of CR 30 will probably be able to go home tonight, but between CR 30 and CR 28 is the danger zone,” reported Cortez Fire Chief Jeff Vandevoorde.
As of Wednesday night, no structures had been burned, but the fire was burning near several homes. Firefighters were focusing their efforts on protecting several threatened structures in the area and were reported to have saved several from destruction.
All local fire departments have been dispatched to put the fire out. Crews from the Forest Service, BLM and BIA were also fighting the fire. A bulldozer cut fire lines west of CR 30 and S.2 and two helicopters were expected to be on scene Thursday morning.
An evacuation center was set up at Kemper Elementary, 621 Montezuma Avenue, in Cortez. Residents can stay the night and get a meal while they wait out the fire.
Residents can call (970) 564-4997 or (970) 564-4998 for updates.
If needed, another community/press update will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Dolores Community Center.
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