Roatcap Fire in mop-up stage, 70 percent contained

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Lewis-Arriola firefighters roll out hoses to battle the Roatcap fire and protect a residence near Road 28. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Lewis-Arriola firefighters roll out hoses to battle the Roatcap fire and protect a residence near Road 28.

UPDATE: 2:50 p.m. Thursday:

The Roatcap fire south of Dolores is now 70 percent contained and is currently in the mop-up stages, according to Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell.

The Montezuma County Sheriff's Office is reporting that no structures were lost.

A community briefing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Dolores Fire Station.

County Road P to P.5 West of 29 and 28 North from P.5 is now open for residents only, and escorts will be available beginning at 9 a.m. for critical situations only like medication.

The following hotlines have been set up:

• 970-564-4997 and 970-564-4998

• Dolores Substation 970-882-4656 opened at 9 a.m.

• Dolores Fire Station 970-882-4096

FROM WEDNESDAY:

A trash fire triggered a blazing-fast wildfire south of Dolores Wednesday morning.

Whipped by strong winds, the Roatcap Fire quickly grew out of control prompting the evacuations of between 30 and 50 homes south of Highway 145 in the area of County Roads 29 and P.

As many as 100 firefighters from around the region were fighting the blaze and an additional 60 firefighters are expected to be on scene today.

The fire, which has also been called the Simon Draw Fire, was estimated at 386 acres during a Wednesday night briefing. Approximately 30 homes have been officially evacuated.

Highway 184 is open but County Road 29 from P to Highway 184 is closed.

The fire was expected to settle down over night when the winds and temperatures drop.

Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell said that homes east of County Road 30 “are in good shape” but the homes between County Roads 30-28 are in the “danger zone.”

“It started with a controlled burn,” said a sheriff's deputy on scene who did not want to be identified. “Someone was burning trash and it got out of control,” he said.

The Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center ordered two type 2 firefighting crews, in addition a type 1 hotshot crew was pulled away from the Vallecito Fire near Durango, as well as an air attack crew, a type 1 helicopter, single engine air tanker and heavy air tanker.

According to fire officials, planes were not an option because of the high winds, which reached gusts of 60 mph. Bulldozers were being used to fight the blaze in a number of areas

It is unknown how many of these resources were available because of the Wetmore Fire in Pueblo County.

Lt. Ted Meador of the Montezuma Sheriff's Office said all fire agencies in the area responded to the blaze.

The Cortez Fire Department got a call at 10:33 a.m. for a brush fire. Fire Chief Jeff Vandevoorde said they responded with six units and they got a good jump on the blaze.

Evacuees were asked to check in at the Montezuma County Sheriff's Substation in Dolores to register and the The Red Cross is responding.

As of 2:30 p.m. eight people had checked in at the sheriff's substation.

Jan Bumguardner was the second person to sign in at the evacuation center. She said she was not ordered to evacuate but she decided to leave because the fire was so close to her home.

“It was probably within a mile of my home. We could almost see the flames,” she said.

She said she was not sure if she would be allowed back into her home anytime soon, but added she had a lot of friends in the area and would probably stay with one of them.

Scott Shattuck and his wife Irmi, who moved from Virginia about a year ago, had been smelling the smoke for a couple of hours when there was a knock on the door from a sheriff's deputy telling them that they had to leave.

He and his wife live close to Summit Ridge Cemetery, which he estimated was a mile and a half from the fire.

Irmi said if the evacuation order was not lifted she and her husband would probably find a motel room in Cortez.

Scott Shattuck said he would have preferred to take their RV but there was not enough time because they were told to leave immediately.

“We got out of there pretty quick,” he said. “I was very surprised (at the evacuation order). I am not going to second guess them.”

His wife said one reason they moved from Virginia was to get away from the hurricanes and the evacuations that came with them, and now another element was forcing them to leave their home.

“We registered with the sheriff's office, and they will tell us when we can go back,” she said. “I hope it is today.”

Carole Baldwin said she also lives by the Summit Ridge Cemetery, and said that she too had been smelling smoke in the air for a few hours and heard the siren before being told by a deputy at her doorstep to get out immediately.

Baldwin said there was not much time, so she and her husband grabbed their pets — a dog and two kittens — medication and a jacket.

“It took about 15 minutes to get everything together,” she said. “We are senior citizens, and we do not move too fast.”

The Roatcap Fire resulted in some Dolores school bus routes being cancelled and some parents had to sign their children out from school.

The Sheriff's office has set up these phone hotlines: 970-564-4997 and 970-564-4998. Information will also be forthcoming on the Sheriff's website.www.montezumasheriff.org

Spruell said that homes will remain evacuated until sometime today. No structures have been damaged in the fire as of last night.

Lewis Arriola firefighters stand by to protect a residence off Road 28 and P. 7 as flames erupt in the Roatcap Fire Wednesday afternoon. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Lewis Arriola firefighters stand by to protect a residence off Road 28 and P. 7 as flames erupt in the Roatcap Fire Wednesday afternoon.

Tim Webb stretches out a hose to help protect his house from the Roatcap Fire Wednesday afternoon. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Tim Webb stretches out a hose to help protect his house from the Roatcap Fire Wednesday afternoon.

Lewis Arriola firefighters stand by to protect a residence off of Road 28 and P. 7 as flames erupt in the Roatcap Fire Wednesday afternoon. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Lewis Arriola firefighters stand by to protect a residence off of Road 28 and P. 7 as flames erupt in the Roatcap Fire Wednesday afternoon.

Winds whip up flames in the Roatcap Fire Wednesday. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Winds whip up flames in the Roatcap Fire Wednesday.

Residents of the area south of Highway 184 east of Highway 145 wait with their horses next to County Road 30 while the Roatcap Fire burns Wednesday afternoon. Sheriff’s deputies blocked access to the road. Enlargephoto

Caleb Soptelean/Cortez Journal

Residents of the area south of Highway 184 east of Highway 145 wait with their horses next to County Road 30 while the Roatcap Fire burns Wednesday afternoon. Sheriff’s deputies blocked access to the road.

Flames flare up on a tree near the origin of the Roatcap Fire at Road 29 and Road P. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Flames flare up on a tree near the origin of the Roatcap Fire at Road 29 and Road P.