Southwest fires continue to
Smoke continues to fill the skies in
and around Durango. As many as 17 wildfires are currently burning
on almost 220,000 acres of public lands in Southwest Colorado. Of
these, the 1,864-acre Bear Creek Fire is closest to Durango and
continues to be managed as a Wildland Use Fire. This
lightning-caused fire began July 6 and is burning approximately
four miles northeast of Vallecito Reservoir.
"The Bear Creek Fire is
surrounded by other wildland fires in the Four Corners area," said
Marcus Schmidt, U.S. Forest Service and BLM smoke management
specialist. "Much of the smoke you are experiencing is coming from
these other fires. It's a cumulative effect."
Three other wildfires
are burning in western Colorado, including the Alta Fire near
Telluride, and the Brush Mountain and Dotsero Crater fires near
Grand Junction. Four wildfires are burning in south and eastern
Utah, and six wildfires are burning in New Mexico, including the
large Encebado Fire near Taos. To further contribute to the local
haze, three wildfires are burning in Arizona.
The Forest Service
continues to manage the Bear Creek Fire under a Fire-use Smoke
Permit issued by the State of Colorado. "The Forest Service
continues to abide by the conditions of the permit, and we will
continue to monitor the situation," said Sarah Gallup, field
liaison for prescribed fire smoke permits at the Colorado State Air
Pollution Control Division. Air quality monitors have been
installed at Vallecito to measure air-borne particulates at the
fire station at the north end of reservoir and at Vallecito
Still, Gallup advises
those with smoke sensitivities to stay inside, keep windows closed
at night when temperature inversions bring smoke down into valleys,
and curtail unnecessary outdoor exercise.
As of Wednesday, the
Bear Creek fire remained at approximately 1,864 acres. The area
received some scattered rain early Wednesday and late Tuesday, but
not enough to extinguish the blaze.
In spite of a call last
week from U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R.-Colo., to
extinguish the blaze, crews were continuing to manage the fire as a
Wildland Use Fire. Consequently, it is being allowed to burn north
through the Weminuche Wilderness and act as a controlled burn. On
the south flank of the fire, crews supported by helicopters, fire
engines and a bulldozer are actively suppressing the fire to
prevent it from moving farther south and closer to
Grandview moratorium extended
By a mixed vote, the La Plata County
commissioners elected Monday to extend the moratorium on
development in the Grandview area. Commissioners Josh Joswick and
Bob Lieb voted to extend the moratorium in the area east of Durango
until Oct. 21. Commissioner Sheryl Ayers opposed the extension,
saying the moratorium has not worked so far and has hindered
property rights. A number of landowners attended the meeting and
echoed this sentiment, according to County Planning Director Nancy
The Southern Ute Indian
Tribe has proposed 2,400 new units in a dense new urbanism
configuration in the Grandview area. The proposal prompted the
commissioners to enact a six-month moratorium on development in the
area late last year in order to synchronize planning with the city
of Durango and to study the potential for a transfer development
rights program to encourage open space.
Last Monday, the
commissioners extended the moratorium by majority vote but in a
"They extended it for
three months, but they limited the area to the city's Grandview
area," Lauro said.
The extension will
enable the county's planning and engineering departments to
evaluate existing plans and propose appropriate regulations for new
development in the area. It also will give the city and county time
to finalize an intergovernmental agreement. The commissioners
agreed that if the agreement is in place prior to Oct. 21, the
moratorium can be rescinded.
Excel addresses compliance
Things appear to be looking up for the
Excel Charter School. Last Thursday, members of the Durango School
District 9-R board unanimously approved a budget item for the
beleaguered school and, assuming it can enroll 90 students, Excel
will be in business for the upcoming school year.
Excel has been plagued
by staff and board member turnover as well as problems meeting
state and national requirements.
"The school has had some
turmoil in the last year and also has needed to address some
contract compliance issues that are related to meeting all of
Colorado accreditation and accountability statutes," said 9-R
Superintendent Mary Barter.
However, Excel is
working to get back on track. On Wednesday, July 9, Barter met with
the Excel Board and left with a positive impression. "I had a very
fine meeting with the Excel Board last Wednesday and came away from
the meeting feeling that the school was determined to and able to
address all of its noncompliance issues," she said.
recommended that the 9-R board approve a $144,225 budget item that
will enable Excel to operate during its first quarter. The funding
is contingent on an enrollment of 90 students for the 2003-04
"The only thing I needed
further assurance on is that it would have enough students to
operate for the upcoming year," Barter said. "As soon as the
district's satisfied that there will be at least 90 students on
opening day, we'll release the funding."
Body discovered in irrigation
Two menconducting a GPS survey
ofa PineRiver irrigation ditch discovered the body of a
womanfloating in it last Tuesday morning. La Plata County
Sheriff's deputies arrived at the ditch near County Road 222,
southeast of Elmore's Corner, a few minutes later and confirmed the
The woman was believed
to be in her early 50s and the cause of death isunder
investigation.Results of an autopsy, which was performed late
Tuesday, may not be available for several days.The case is
currentlyclassified as an "unattended death" and the location of
the discovery was being processed as a potential crime
sceneuntil such time that foul play can be ruled out.