The Cow Creek fire just north of Ridgway is still burning, but the recent weather has assisted fire crews. Over the weekend, the fire management team overseeing the operation transitioned from a Type 3 management team to a Type 2, meaning the scale of the operation has grown. Teams draw together people who are experts in their field, to manage and maintain a fire camp and crews.

When Rocky Mountain Blue Type 2 team came in, all personnel moved to the Ouray County fairgrounds. There are showers, caterers, medical tents and a tent city for the five fire crews and numerous supply tents and trailers — everything a firefighter or support personnel could need.

The incident command for the fire wanted to express their extreme appreciation to all the locals who wanted to donate to or assist firefighters, but said that since the crews are well taken care of, they would rather see all donations go to local fire agencies or nonprofits.

“We are so very appreciative, and amazed by the local offers of support, but we are self contained. We would rather they show their appreciation to their local agencies,” said Jared Hohn, incident command trainee.

“The fire is in full suppression mode, we are taking definitive actions to keep firefighters safe, and protect local resources. We are putting in fire lines in pretty rough terrain, so we are trying to utilize natural land breaks to assist the firefighters,” he added. “At this time due to weather and safety concerns, no firefighters are staying on the fireline at night. Camp is so close to the fire, that it is more effective to keep them in camp, not on the fireline.”

There are five 20 person initial attack crews, 12 engines, and four helicopters, including an air attack platform. Temporary flight restrictions remain in place, meaning no aircraft can fly within the fire zone, for the safety of all. The restrictions apply to drones also.

“While the resources are assigned to the fire, they are available, upon request, to assist local agencies while they are here. We are assisting in initial attack within a 7-mile radius of the center point of the fire, and we can also assist with air resources locally, if needed,” Hohn said.

Due to inclement weather, an updated fire size was not readily available.

“We attempted an IR (infra-red) flight but due to clouds and conditions, we were not able to accurately map the size of the fire on Sunday night. The rough estimate of size still stands at 785 acres,” Hohn said.

The fire is burning in pine, fir, scrub oak and brush, and because it is a wilderness area, it is untouched forest. No one has been able to log there, so growth is thicker.

“The aspen are readily burning at this time of year. The heavy fuels are keeping the heat, and can smolder for quite some time, and flare back up when the temperatures go back up,” Hohn said. “Although we have had some precipitation, temperatures are expected to get back into the 60s this week, and the fire will flare back up, with smoke visible again.”

The team is aware of the effect of this fire on hunting season, but Hohn said it’s burning in only a small portion of the hunting area.

“We are asking hunters, and other forest users, to be extremely cautious with fire while they are in the woods,” he said. “It’s still fire season, until there is a season ending event here, such as six to 12 inches of snow or rain, there is still fire danger due to the previous dry conditions.”

Pam Baltimore, public information officer for the Rocky Mountain Blue team, said the agencies are working hard to keep the community and hunters informed. “We have information boards at both gas stations in Ridgway, and fire information handouts are readily available around town,” she said.

There will be a public meeting today at 6 p.m. regarding the Cow Creek Fire at Ridgway Elementary School, 1115 Clinton St. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Leslie Brown is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press. 

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