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Ox Cart Fire still burns on Poncha

Posted: Thursday, Jun 13th, 2013

Smoke from the Ox Cart Fire is visible from Highway 285 in the northern part of the San Luis Valley. It will continue to burn in a natural course. Courier photo by Eric R. Flores

PONCHA PASS There was increased activity on the Ox Cart Fire on Tuesday, according to SLV Public Lands Center Public Affairs Specialist Mike Blakeman.

However, he said most of the smoke San Luis Valley residents noticed on Wednesday morning was probably from fires in New Mexico.

The Ox Cart Fire, begun by lightning on June 6, continues to burn naturally in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. The fire is burning in aspen, Douglas fir and bristlecone pine approximately six miles southeast of Poncha Pass.

The fire had grown to about 15 acres as of Wednesday morning. It is zero-percent contained with no date for expected containment, as it is being managed by the Rio Grande National Forest in a manner that allows it to play its natural role. It is being monitored on a daily basis.

No structures are threatened. Temporary area closures have included Forest Service Roads 980 and 982 from North Decker Creek southeast to Nieland Creek.

The fire is clearly visible from U.S. Highway 285. Drift smoke may be visible on either side of the northern Sangre de Cristo Mountains, but smoke from several large fires in Colorado and New Mexico is more likely to impact the area, according to Blakeman.

The Rio Grande National Forest plans to follow wilderness management objectives by allowing the Ox Cart Fire play its natural role on the landscape. A management plan is in place to suppress parts or all of the fire if necessary to prevent it from threatening or damaging private property or other resource values.

Low to moderate fire activity is expected with occasional single tree torching and some short spotting, according to Blakeman.

The Ox Cart Fire is expected to continue to burn until the monsoon season arrives. Fire updates will be posted on the Rio Grande National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/riogrande. For more information contact the Saguache Ranger District at 719-655-2547.

The public is reminded that conditions are dry and fire danger is very high. Individuals are requested to report smoke on public lands to Pueblo Dispatch at 719-553-1600 or by calling 911.

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