Perins Peak Fire west of Durango reaches 36% containment Thursday evening

John R. Moses
Farmington Daily Times

DURANGO – The 102-acre Perins Peak Fire northwest of Durango, Colorado, was at 36% containment Thursday night according to the InciWeb interagency information-sharing website.

"Four hotshot crews, multiple engine crews, and other resources achieved 36% containment as of Thursday evening," a post on the website announced. "Engine crews plumbed hose to the fire's heel where they mopped up in anticipation of tomorrow's winds. Smoke will remain visible as interior pockets of the fire continue to smolder."

Crews worked for days in rough terrain building fire lines meant to contain the blaze, work that fire managers say may be put to the test Friday as winds pick up. There are 139 firefighters assigned to the fire.

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“Firefighters continue to make progress lining the #PerinsPeakFire, located 1 mile northwest of Durango,” according to a post Thursday evening on the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Facebook page. “Cooperators from multiple agencies and with varied expertise showed up for the fire, facing challenging terrain and hot, dry weather.

"This morning, helicopters shuttled hotshots to the top of the fire while other crews hiked in from the bottom," the Bureau of Land Management's Friday's morning update said. " Aircraft usage will continue today in support of mop-up as crews reinforce the fireline and increase containment."

Engine crews hike in rolls of hose, plumbing the heel of the Perins Peak  Fire from the Perins Peak Trailhead.

The morning and afternoon of May 26 saw what the BLM termed “favorable fire weather conditions.” The potential for changes in the fire’s nature begins Friday, May 27, when the winds pick up.

“Beginning Friday morning, a Red Flag warning will be in effect with gusty winds, low relative humidity, and high temperatures throughout the holiday weekend,” the Thursday morning fire update said. “These critical fire weather conditions could pose challenges to firefighters, making today’s progress especially crucial.“

Firefighters will monitor winds as Perins Peak Fire containment work near Durango proceeds

A pre-evacuation notice declared May 24 is still in effect for County Road 208 and the Dry Fork and Rock Ridge subdivisions, and also County Road 206 to Highway 160. 

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Evacuation information can be found online in the La Plata County Evacuations Map, or by calling 970-385-8700. The Overend Mountain Park, Twin Buttes, and Perins State Wildlife Area trails remain closed for use by emergency personnel only.  

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“Remember that drones are strictly prohibited from flying near an active wildfire,” the BLM release noted Thursday morning. “This activity is both illegal and extremely dangerous. A temporary flight restriction remains in place for five nautical miles around the Perins Peak Fire.”

On Thursday afternoon the La Plata County Government's Facebook page reported that someone didn't heed that advice, and it hampered firefighting efforts from the air.

"Aerial firefighting efforts were shut down today because someone was flying a drone near the fire," the post stated. "Keep drones AWAY from wildfires. Wildland fire aircraft fly low and fast. Drones pose a serious threat to a pilot’s safety. Per the FAA, drone operators who interfere with wildfire suppression efforts are subject to civil penalties of up to $27,500 and possible criminal prosecution."

 The no fly zone is the zone five miles from the fire, the post noted.

Officials also want people to mind restrictions on burning and keep fire safety as a top priority, now and through the summer and fall.

Perins Peak Fire Operations Section Chief Brad Pietruszka told area residents at a community meeting in Durango on May 25 that crews making their way to the fire are hiking 1,300 feet from the bottom to the top of the steep fire zone to battle the early-season blaze.

Pietruszka said having two large fires in the region — during May — has not happen for at least 25 years and may be unprecedented. He noted that fire restrictions are in place in the region for good reasons.

"Make sure we abide by those fire restrictions," Pietruszka said as he closed his portion of the meeting, "because it's looking to be a really long summer, and it's just begun."

The fire began Tuesday afternoon two miles west of Durango on Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Parks and Wildlife lands and quickly spread to what was first estimated at 105 acres then dedownsized to 100 acres. A quick run by the fire later added two more acres.

No cause has yet been determined.

“The cause of the fire is under investigation and is suspected to be a human-caused ignition," a Bureau of Land Management news release stated Wednesday.

An overview of the Perins Peak Fire area taken on May 25, 2022, was posted on the Inciweb multiagency information sharing website.

Contact John R. Moses at 505-564-4624, or via email at jmoses@daily-times.com.

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