|With fire danger at high, and ever present winds tugging at the air, the county was fortunate in the quick response made to the Hardscrabble wildfire west of Wetmore last Saturday, June 2.
Authorities say fewer than three acres burned. Though it was located in an isolated spot several hundred yards off Highway 96, Sheriff Shannon Byerly on Tuesday said a smoldering campfire is believed to have caused the blaze.
About 9 a.m. Saturday, Custer County Dispatch had received a phone call reporting smoke in the area of County Road 387 and Highway 96, around MM 21.5. This was followed by a number of 911 calls reporting heavy smoke in the same area. The first deputy on the scene reported a wildfire approximately one quarter mile south of Highway 96, a half mile west of County Road 387. The fire was determined to be approximately one to two acres and was located on National Forest Service property. Custer County Sheriff’s Office placed five residents on County Road 387 and ten residents on Highway 96 in the Smith Creek area on pre-evacuation status.
Responding agencies included Wet Mountain Fire District, Wetmore Fire Department, Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service. Firefighters attacked the fire aggressively with approximately 50 personnel and two aircraft. Aircraft were dropping water and fire retardant within one hour of arrival.
At approximately 8 p.m. Saturday, the USFS Incident Commander was reporting 50 percent containment with dedicated water lines to the fire. As of Sunday morning, the fire had not grown and remained at two acres; USFS reported the fire as 75 percent contained.
The fire was not then threatening any structures and the Forest Service was confident the fire would soon be 100 percent contained, which it was by Monday.
As of press time, there are active fires raging south of the Valley—the Ute Park Fire in northcentral New Mexico, with 36,800 acres burning and 30 percent containment—and across the Sangres in southwestern Colorado—the 416 Fire north of Durango, with 2,933 acres burning and 10 percent containment, and the Horse Park Fire outside Montrose, with 1,221 acres burning and 90 percent containment. Here, vigilance and safety can be pursued with the Office of Emergency Management’s READY SET GO program, featured in a related article today. In the meantime, county residents and visitors are grateful for the timely and efficient response to the Hardscrabble incident.
– W.A. Ewing