Spruell calls report about fire’s cause ‘balderdash’ (web only)

Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell called a report that the Weber Fire was known to have been started by recreational target-shooters “nothing but balderdash.”

Monday evening in Mancos, Spruell told the Free Press that quoted remarks by La Plata County’s Butch Knowlton, director of emergency management, on the Durango Herald web site were premature.

Knowlton was reported to have told the La Plata County commissioners that the fire had been started by people target-shooting on public lands near Mancos. He was quoted as saying that bullets had ricocheted into dry grass, setting off the blaze.

Spruell said it’s possible the fire started that way, but that he had not been told that the cause was officially known. He said the report was “just a rumor.”

Late Monday evening, the BLM issued a press release stating, “The Weber Fire remains under investigation by the Bureau of Land Management Law Enforcement Officers and a special investigation team.
“An earlier announcement indicated the fire was human caused, but it is still under investigation and no official report has been released.”
The press release quoted BLM Tres Rios Field Manager Connie Clementson as saying, “When the investigation is complete an official announcement will be made by the Bureau of Land Management. We ask that our communities have patience as we complete our investigation.”

At the Monday evening fire briefing in Mancos, officials said the fire was 10 percent contained and that it had been quieter that day.

However, Spruell warned, “we don’t want to get lulled into feeling everything is OK.”

He praised firefighters’ efforts, saying, “We can’t give them enough kudos.”

Other developments:

▪ Road construction between Mancos and Cortez has been halted. Spruell said he called the construction company and its officials were extremely cooperative and agreed to stop operations for the moment.

▪ More than 200 people are now working the fire, Clementson said, up from 164 on Monday morning.

▪ Mancos Rural Water is still experiencing some outages because of high demand and excessive usage, Brandon Bell of the water company said. “We can only filter it so fast and send it down the pipes,” he said. “We are asking people to be a little bit conservative so we can keep people in water – not just in volume, but safe drinking water.”

▪ Firefighters will conduct burning operations at night to reduce fuels in the fire’s possible path. Incident Commander Joe Lowe said the firefighters will save pasture if possible, but that for the most part, they cannot engage the fire directly during the day because the flames are 8 to 60 feet high. “Firefighters can’t stand next to that. You have to burn the intervening fuels out of the advancing fire front.”

▪ One shed was said to have burned, but no homes.

▪ The fire has not jumped Highway 160.

▪ Firefighters continue to be concerned about communications towers in the fire’s path and are working to protect them.

▪ Weather for the next few days is expected to be hot and dry, with some possible dry lightning.


From June 2012.