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Plumtaw Fire remains at 735 acres, red flag weather conditions could cause spread

Plumtaw Fire near Pagosa Springs_U.S. Forest Service May 17 2022
Posted at 1:40 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 13:03:28-04

DENVER – The Plumtaw Fire burning north of Pagosa Springs remains at 735 acres and 0% contained as of Thursday morning, but red flag weather conditions could cause it to spread.

In a morning briefing, Brad Peitruszka, the incident commander for Plumtaw Fire, said Wednesday was a great day for firefighting efforts. The cloud cover, as well as ground and air work, helped to keep the wildfire in check.

Crews were able to work around the southern edge of the fire and make some progress around the northwest edge.

Helicopters and air tankers were heavily focused on keeping the perimeter of the fire in check, which helped firefighters on the north end of the fire, Peitruszka said.

Fire crews were also able to create one pass of dozier line north of the fire, but Peitruszka said it will take a lot of work to prep and actually hold the fire line south of the Lost Valley subdivision. Crews also spent time in the subdivision looking at the structures to help with prevention by increasing defensible space in case the fire moves up that way.

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While good progress was made, fire crews weren’t able to do much to the head of the wildfire on the northeast side due to the winds. They were able to lay down retardant to reduce the fire’s intensity and spotting potential.

With the sunny conditions Thursday, fire crews are expecting more fire behavior, but there’s also a red flag warning for “extremely strong” southwest winds, high temperatures and low humidity.

The San Juan National Forest will move to Stage 1 fire restrictions just after midnight Friday. The area is under a red flag warning from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday for winds 15-25 mph that could gust up to 35 mph, according to the National Weather Service and Peitruszka.

Because they don’t have physical lines on a lot of the fire, Peitruszka said they expect it to grow Thursday, but the degree of growth is up in the air.

Crews are hopeful they’ll be able to continue to use Four Mile Creek Road to help hold the fire line, but it’s possible the fire could spot across the road and establish itself because of the conditions. If that occurs, there could be substantial fire growth of one to two miles, Peitruszka said.

“Fire managers have to practice risk-based decision making and keeping our firefighters and the public safe is the number one priority,” Pietruszka said. “Potential still exists for the fire to cross Fourmile Road, but well-rested crews are better prepared to make good, safe, and effective decisions.”

People living in the Lost Valley of the San Juans remain under evacuation orders, and no other evacuations or pre-evacuations have been ordered. For evacuation information, contact the Archuleta County Emergency Operations Call Center at 970-422-7084.

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The fire area is closed to the public includes Four Mile Road (NFSR 645) at the forest boundary, Plumtaw Road (NFSR 634) from the junction of McManus Road (NFSR 633), Fourmile Trail, Anderson Trail and Cade Mountain ATV Trail.

The fire started around 1 p.m. Tuesday, but its cause is still under investigation.

As of now, the fire has cost $1.1 million.