Weber Fire 30 percent contained, firefighting personnel up to 512

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A helicopter prepares to dump water in front of the backburn fire Tuesday on Menefee Mountain. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

A helicopter prepares to dump water in front of the backburn fire Tuesday on Menefee Mountain.

The Weber Fire continued to burn overnight and is now at 9,155 acres but the latest report has the fire at 30 percent contained.

The morning news release from Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team C said the fire continued slow movement toward Highway 160 and areas of active fire on the northwest and southeast flanks.

The news release warned that heavy fuels and favorable alignment with wind and terrain could cause increased fire activity in these areas today.

Overnight, crews continue burnout operations and constructing and strengthening fire line.

No structures have been destroyed, but about 150 people remain evacuated.

The number of fire personnel on the Weber Fire is now at 512.

Beth Hermanson, Public Information Officer Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team C, said that there is no plan to move personnel to other fires at this time. This morning, she said that once crews are assigned to a fire, they normally remain on that fire until it is well contained.

The Montezuma County Sheriff's website said today that evacuees would be escorted to their homes for 15-minute visits through the morning.

Mop-up operations will be conducted in areas today. Steep terrain (and the risk of rolling embers) is making direct firefighting tactics unsafe in some areas, the news release said.

Rocky Mountain Team C Incident Commander Joe Lowe praised the work of fire crews.

“Rough terrain, unpredictable weather, and heavy, dry fuels have made this a hard fought battle.”

The evening community briefing will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Mancos High School Performing Arts Center. There will no longer be a morning briefing.

The small controversy over the cause of the fire remained unclear. What is clear, is that the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Earlier this week, Butch Knowlton, director of La Plata County's Office of Emergency Preparedness, said the fire was started by people target practicing on federal land. He made the statement in Durango on Monday during a special meeting to brief county commissioners on area fires.

A bullet passed through a target, ricocheted off a rock and landed in dry vegetation, starting the fire, he said.

Connie Clementson, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management, who is actively involved in the investigation, declined to comment on the explanation and Knowlton's statement.

“I can't say,” Clementson said. “The fire is still under investigation.

She did say that the fire was definitely human-caused.

The thunderstorm that moved into the area last night produced a high number of lightning strikes and several small fires around the county.

The Cortez Fire Protection District responded to three fires last night. None were reported to be serious.