efforts helped by weather
Wet weather has helped firefighters get a handle on blazes
throughout the Four Corners region. Closest to Durango, the
Bear Creek Wildland Use Fire has not grown recently, courtesy
of substantial precipitation, and its management has been handed
over to local officials.
Showing no growth over the past week, the Bear Creek Wildland
Use Fire, which began July 6, has remained at approximately
1,869 acres. However, earlier in the week, Incident Commander
Bill Clark told firefighters: “This fire is not out. It’s
like a game of chess. We have the fire in check and are waiting
for it to make the next move.”
Clark noted that if a warming and drying pattern develops over
the region, local residents can expect to see increased fire
activity and smoke. “Fires can smolder for a month or
more, and when the conditions are right, they can begin to move,”
Mesa Verde National Park reopened Monday, July 21, after a
five-day closure because of a series of fires near the Balcony
House ruin. Park interpreters are once again guiding tours through
Balcony House, where visitors had rapidly been evacuated July
15 when dry lightning struck, igniting five wildfires.A0Like
the Bear Creek Fire, precipitation has allowed crews to make
excellent progress, and the Balcony House fire complex has not
spread significantly. Early this week, the size was estimated
at 2550 acres.
One of the hottest spots in the region is currently the area
west of Pagosa Springs. The Bolt Fire, which was triggered July
15 by lightning, is located south of the Chimney Rock Archeological
Site and was 1,830 acres in size last Tuesday. The fire also
was estimated to be 40 percent contained, thanks to a weather
pattern that favors afternoon thunderstorms and lighter winds.
Firefighters also continued to make progress on the Devil Creek
Fire, west of Pagosa. Early this week, the fire was estimated
at 235 acres and was 90 percent contained.
|Silent sentry: A pedestrian walks past
the watchful eye of the cigar store Indian in front of The
Smoke Shop on College Drive./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
Schools closed for asbestos removal
Asbestos removal is under way at four local schools. The removal
of the hazardous material from Miller Middle School, Park Elementary,
Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary and Florida Mesa Elementary also
kicks off School District 9-R’s $84.5 million effort to
repair, renovate and expand local schools.
At Miller and Fort Lewis Mesa, asbestos flooring and ceiling
will be removed from offices, classrooms and common space. Asbestos
is confined to utility tunnels at Park and Florida Mesa.
The asbestos removal precedes construction, which is expected
to begin this fall. Last November, voters approved an $84.5
million capital improvement bond for the district’s 11
schools. The improvements will alleviate overcrowding and modernize
This round of asbestos removal likely won’t be the last,
said Director of Business Services Diane Doney. As construction
activities move into areas with identified asbestos, removal
procedures will follow strict environmental guidelines. Although
the containment procedures are rigorous and prevent contamination
in clean areas, all asbestos-removal activities will be scheduled
during weekends or holiday breaks when the buildings are empty.
“We believe that the added cost of scheduling asbestos
removal activities during nonschool hours is worth reducing
the stress and increasing the comfort level of our parents and
students during the construction program,” said Doney.
Thinning planned for Perins Peak
Trees will be thinned in the Perins Peak State Wildlife Area
in coming months in the name of habitat enhancement and fire
safety. The Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Division
of Wildlife will conduct a thinning project in late summer and
early fall on about 400 acres in the wildlife area.
The project, which will take place on flat terrain and in small
drainages west of Durango between the Rock Ridge Subdivision
and Dry Fork Drainage, is designed to protect areas from wildfire
and stimulate growth of edible vegetation for wildlife. The
state wildlife and the Dry Fork areas will remain open, although
the public is urged to use caution.
A machine called a hydroaxe will be used to create openings
in dense areas of shrubs by thinning scrub oak and smaller juniper
trees. It also will remove thick areas of brush that are choking
out natural meadows. Beginning around Aug. 1, the hydroaxe will
be running Mondays through Saturdays, and the public is advised
to steer clear of the noisy machine, which can throw debris
up to 300 feet. The work is expected to be completed by Oct.
Autopsy deems drowning an accident
Two men conducting a GPS survey of a Pine River irrigation
ditch discovered the floating body of a woman on the morning
of July 15. Following an autopsy three days later, the death,
which took place near County Road 222 southeast of Elmore’s
Corner, was deemed an accident.
Rebecca Devine, a 53-year-old Mercy Medical Center nurse, was
apparently walking her dog on the evening of July 14, according
to investigators. It is speculated that Devine tried to rescue
her dog after it jumped into an irrigation canal and was swept
down a spilling. The turbulence created by baffles in the spillway
is believed to have drowned Devine and the dog. The autopsy
also revealed blunt force trauma to Devine’s head which
was believed to be a contributing factor to the death.
The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office urged the public
to recognize the extreme danger associated with irrigation canals
and ditches in La Plata County.
Pine River Times acquires El Valle
An area newspaper changed hands last week. Pine River Publishing
Inc., in Bayfield, has purchased the only bilingual Hispanic
newspaper in the Four Corners, El Valle Hispanic News.
Robert Mazur and Melanie Brubaker Mazur, owners of the Pine
River Times since June 17, 2002, entered a contract with La
Verta Valdez-Johnson on Monday, July 14.
The Mazurs will hire Shirena Trujillo Long to be the managing
editor of El Valle, and the office will be located within the
Pine River Times, in Bayfield.
Valdez-Johnson started El Valle more than three years ago in
Bloomfield, N.M., because she believed the Hispanic population
was underrepresented in the mainstream media.
“I’m glad that we can continue on,” Valdez-Johnson
said on the day of the sale. “My whole goal was to carry
this little newspaper on.”