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Wildfire briefly closes Highway 145 on Friday night

Montezuma County

Wildfire season started with a bang, or possibly a crash, in Montezuma County on Friday.

According to unconfirmed reports, a wind gust knocked a tree down onto a powerline near Highway 145 about ten miles northeast of Dolores in the late afternoon, triggering a wildfire. The highway was closed just before 5 p.m. at Road 37 and did not reopen until around 9 p.m.

Some nearby residents were evacuated from their homes overnight as crews from numerous fire departments fought the blaze. Snow was still sitting on the ground under the trees, according to one resident, but the wind-whipped flames were spreading in the crowns.

A state wildfire map listed the fire as 20 acres in size, but a post on Montezuma County’s Facebook page on Friday said it had “affected approximately 80 acres on the south side of Highway 145 between Road 37 and the West Fork road.”

The county said the cause of the fire was under investigation.

The blaze damaged power lines, causing an outage that extended from Friday night well into Saturday. According to an update on its Facebook page at 12:30 p.m., Empire Electric Association had crews working to replace “5 spans damaged in the fire near road 37 and Highway 145.”

“We are hopeful power can be restored to all meters by tonight. Thank you for your patience and understanding,” the post continued.

On social media, the county thanked firefighters from Dolores, Cortez, West Fork, Rico, Mancos, Lewis-Arriola, the Division of Fire Prevention and Control, and the US Forest Service, BLM, and CDOT for their assistance.

Snow that fell overnight between Friday and Saturday helped dampen flames.

This was one of numerous fires that broke out statewide, in many cases fed by high winds.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal, and was the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.