Medano fire update, June 18

Medano fire Great Sand Dunes National Park
Medano fire as seen from the park's Visitor Center, June 17, 2010. NPS photo by Patrick Myers.

The Medano fire, about 70 miles southwest of Pueblo, Colorado (map), that we told you about yesterday has crossed the boundary of Great Sand Dunes National Park and has moved into the San Isabel National Forest. A short version of Hahnenberg’s Rocky Mountain Area Type 2 Incident Management Team was ordered last night and will inbrief at 4 p.m. today.

Lightning started the fire on June 6 and until yesterday it had been managed, not fully suppressed, for resource benefits. But strong southwest winds on Thursday caused the fire to grow from 373 acres to about 3,000. Yesterday and today red flag warnings were issued for the area, fire weather zone 224. Today’s red flag warning is in effect until Saturday at 9 p.m. for gusty winds, low humidity, high Haines indices, and dry fuels.

The Spot weather forecast issued at 8:41 a.m. today looks conducive to additional fire growth through Saturday, with high temperatures around 80, humidity 2-10%, winds gusting at 31-38 mph, and a high Haines index (around 6).

smoke map
Map showing smoke from the Medano fire, June 17, 2010. NOAA

The Medano fire is still not listed in the national Situation Report or Inciweb, but it was mentioned in the briefing at NIFC this morning. I imagine the 20-30 people managing the fire had their hands full and paperwork or sitting at a computer was not the first thing on their to do list. This may or may not change after the short incident management team assumes command late today or tomorrow.

Much of the park is still open to visitors, but some trails are closed due to the fire. More information.

We will post additional information here as it becomes available today.

UPDATE at 1:40 p.m. MT, June 18:

A few minutes ago park spokesperson Carol E. Sperling said that so far today an inversion is mitigating fire activity. Later as the weather heats up, the predicted strong winds materialize, and the fire activity increases, the inversion may dissipate, allowing increased fire spread. However, there is a “big plume” right now which is most likely in the North Horse Canyon area.

They raised the estimate of the acres burned to about 5,000.  They think the fire has reached the boundary of the San Isabel National Forest, but they need to confirm that with an overflight later today.

The park produced a very rough map of the Medano fire perimeter. It is an estimate based on incomplete information.

UPDATE AT 8:00 p.m. MT, June 18

The park distributed another press release a few minutes ago. There was not much information other than what we covered here earlier today. It said the fire was active in the afternoon, (“afternoon winds pushed the fire further into the mountain drainages and brought the smoke up”) and the Type 2 IMTeam would assume command “this weekend”. There was no new acreage estimate.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.