MANCOS, Colo. - The blanket of cooler, more humid air that has dampened activity at the Weber Fire for the last three days has lifted. Fuels are drying, which resulted in an increase in fire activity overnight. The fire was actively burning on the slopes below the communication site on the north end of the fire. Overnight, firefighters monitored fire activity while they continued to prepare for burnout operations.
The fire acreage held steady yesterday at 9,279 acres, with 45 percent containment.
If weather conditions are favorable, firefighters will conduct a large-scale burnout operation on the north end of the fire, starting this afternoon. Incident Commander Joe Lowe asserts, “We need to fight this fire on our own terms.” The goal is to clean up fuels between the indirect lines low on the slopes and the areas where the fire is currently burning in steep, broken terrain. Eliminating this fuel will be critical to stopping the Weber Fire from spreading further to the north, threatening Highway 160.
In preparation for burnout, indirect containment lines have been established and hoses have been laid along them. Fire meteorologists will be monitoring the weather to make sure conditions are appropriate for a successful burnout operation. During burnout, firefighters will take advantage of the drying fuels and the natural tendency of heat to rise up slopes. They will slowly ignite the fuels in a planned pattern to carry the flames toward the already-burned areas. Additional firefighters will be “holding” the lines, watching for any embers that cross the lines and extinguishing them.
These burnout operations are expected to generate large amounts of smoke, visible from Highway 160 and local communities. The smoke is expected to blow to the east.
If the burnout goes as planned today, fire managers hope to do another burnout tomorrow on the south end of the fire, near the junction of Weber Canyon and East Canyon. This is the last large area of fuel near the fire perimeter. Burning this area will make the Weber Fire much less likely to escape from the lines, bringing the fire much closer to full containment. Preparations for this burnout continue today.
For road closures and evacuation information, please contact the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office at (970) 564-4999 or (970) 564-4996.
The next community meeting is scheduled for tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Mancos High School Performing Arts Auditorium.
Information about this and other fires can be found at www.inciweb.org. Follow us on Twitter @weberfireinfo
Contact: Beth Hermanson, Public Information Officer Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team C