Fire crews continue to battle Bear Dance Fire on Saturday – The Journal


Firefighters manage to prevent the blaze from spreading beyond 89 acres

On Friday, flames from the Bear Dance Fire reach the trees as it burns east of Ignacio. The blaze had spread to 89 acres on Saturday, but firefighters were able to stop it from spreading further starting Saturday afternoon. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Jerry McBride

About 100 firefighters continued to battle the Bear Dance Fire on Saturday which came to life shortly after noon on Friday. Fire crews were working to define a perimeter around the blaze that had consumed 89 acres as of 3.40pm on Saturday.

Firefighters were working to extinguish hot spots in the scorched area on Saturday and have made “great progress” since Friday, said Lindsay Box, spokeswoman for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

The Grand Junction National Weather Service is forecasting a high temperature of 83 degrees and southwesterly winds up to 15 mph for Saturday. Box said fire crews were taking precautions to ensure outbreaks with the Bear Dance Fire did not occur. Due to the wind, the firefighters have a security guard on site for their own safety.

A press release from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe distributed on Friday evening said “fuels remain extremely dry due to extreme drought conditions.”

Box said the poplar trees in the area are “extremely dry” and may be “troublesome” to firefighters trying to contain the blaze. On Friday, the Bear Dance Fire quickly scorched willows and poplars. Firefighters worked to contain the blaze in the Pine River bed.

On Friday, pre-evacuation status was placed on about 25 homes along County Roads 516 and 517 near Sundance Road and the campus of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe was evacuated. But there hasn’t been an evacuation order since then, and pre-evacuation status for county residents on County Roads 516 and 517 has been lifted, Box said.

Ute Park Road remains closed from Bear Dance Road to the intersection of County Road 517.

Incident Fire Command is located at the SunUte Community Center, directly across from where the fire initially started, Box said.

The Plata Electric Association cut power to about 5,700 customers in the Bayfield and Ignacio areas around 1:30 p.m. Friday because power lines were interfering with where fire resources were working, Hillary Knox said, spokesperson for the electricity cooperative.

About 3,200 homes and businesses in Bayfield had power restored as of 2:20 p.m., according to the LPEA. Another 2,500 customers in the Ignacio area regained their power around 6:30 p.m. Friday, Box said.

A large brush fire was burning behind the Bear Dance Campgrounds in the Ignacio area, according to a Facebook post from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. (Courtesy)

The Bear Dance fire was reported at 12:23 p.m. behind the Bear Dance campgrounds just east of the Ignacio town limits. Firefighters are still investigating the source of the blaze, according to a news release.

The South Ute Indian Tribe has requested support from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the South Ute Bureau of Fire Management, the United States Forest Service and the Los Pinos Fire Protection District, Box said. The Durango Fire Protection District also assisted and a Type 3 Federal Management Team was called in to take control of the fire.

Three interagency crews also participated in the firefighting Friday and were still on scene Saturday, Box said.

Three helicopters and two to three planes assisted firefighters Friday and remained on standby in case they were needed Saturday, Box said.

No structures were lost and no injuries were reported as of 3:40 p.m. Saturday, Box said.

“We are very, very, very grateful for all the resources that responded to our request for help,” Box said. “…And so our community is extremely grateful for all the resources that have come in so that we were able to contain it to 89 acres rather than watch it grow on the Pine River.”

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