GARDNER- As of June 29, the Medano fire had burned 5,486 acres in Saguache and Huerfano counties and was typically growing by 50 to 150 acres a day with 305 persons involved in fire management. There is an integrated team of local and national experts monitoring the fire and planning for various eventualities. The Incident Management Team (IMT) is headed by Bill Hahnenberg. Sheriff Newman is also involved, as he will have responsibilities if the fire moves to private land in Huerfano County.
Fire managers are coordinating daily with a meteorologist, who has said that there will be a chance of precipitation daily for the next few days. Starting July 2, there will be an even better chance of rain. The middle altitudes have a lot of moisture in the ground, and the creeks have been running. It is fortunate this has come when there is moisture, as dry conditions could make this fire much more dangerous.
Hahnenberg has explained at local meetings that his team is working to establish a fire line on the Sangres side of 69 that will enable them to hold the fire there successfully and safely. They expect the fire to take about two weeks to reach that line, which would allow the fire to continue to grow for a while to take out the heavy accumulation of downed timber and dense undergrowth.
It has been taking out much of the beetle-killed pinon, which is a good thing. They will also be watching to see how the aspen that has burned will recover, as there is currently some speculation in the forestry world that fire rejuvenates aspen groves.
Hahnenburg has assured Gardner residents that there are many areas between Gardner and the fire that could be used to stop the fire, so it would be highly unlikely for the fire to reach the town. Roger Cain said the county would be identifying places to bring horses and livestock that might be threatened.
The fire received little precipitation during the rain and hail storm June 27. On June 28 and 29, fire managers ignited fuel on the southeastern flank of the fire in San Isabel National Forest by means of a torch slung from a helicopter. The intent was to clear unburned fuels. This is referred to as a "burnout" where unburned fuels are consumed between the edge of the fire and prepared firelines. The managers expect smoke and fire to be visible for several days and ask that landowners not call 911. They also encourage drivers on Highway 69 to use caution because there may be fire-related traffic.
At meetings in the area, fire managers have handed out a revised version of Living with Fire.
Homeowners should consider clearing a 30 to 200 foot space around the home, based on the steepness of the terrain and the type of plants growing (30 feet for grasses and flat land; 200 feet for slopes with shrubs and trees).
Homeowners who do have to evacuate should leave sinks and tubs filled with water, as well as garbage cans of water outside so that firefighters can use them to beat back burning embers. Garden hoses should be hooked up and ready to use. Propane tanks should be shut off and pilot lights turned off. All vents and doors should be closed.
Persons evacuating should wear cotton or wool clothing and make sure they have agreed upon a place to meet.
As the fire is expected to continue to burn for the next few weeks, persons affected by smoke should contact their doctor. The smoke tends to be heaviest at night. It may help to sleep with windows closed.
To keep updated on the fire, persons can go to www.inciweb.org and for tips on how to protect their home, they can go to www.firewise.org. Persons with concerns or questions can call 719-219-4456 or check the websites listed above.