Inciweb information was updated: 3 months ago
Wednesday, June 15
The Menkhaven Fire was declared contained at 17:13 on June 8th. Fire crews patrolling the fire are still finding interior pockets of heat that may be occasionally producing visible smoke. This is normal under these circumstances. Dangerous cliff bands are extremely difficult to work in, let alone safely extinguish hot spots that firefighters may not be able to reach.
Crews will continue to patrol and monitor the fire on an as-needed basis. High wind days are of particular concern to us. A substantial amount of rain is needed to fully extinguish the Menkhaven Fire. Until that happens, it is likely that hotspots will continue to be detected and occasionally produce smoke that can be seen from various points along Highway 17 or the Forest roads on top.
Recently, crews have photo documented the natural recovery process that begins immediately after a fire. We invite you to take a look at the recent photos that show new growth in the midst of the fire’s footprint.
This will be the last update unless significant activity occurs.
Friday, June 3 at 6:00 pm
Today fire crews located and cooled many of the hotspots detected by the Multi Mission Aircraft during yesterday afternoon’s flight. Another day of mopping up and patrolling on the Menkhaven Fire, has fire crews reporting that they are finding drastically fewer amounts of residual heat. Today’s hotter and drier conditions would promote more active burning, IF in fact, the heat was present. Containment has now increased to 85% with no acreage growth.
Management of the fire will transition from the current Type 3 organization to a Type 4 organization at 9:00 pm tonight. Some crews and overhead resources have already been demobilized. There will be one crew and engines remaining on scene to continue with ensuring the containment lines are secure and mopping up residual pockets of interior heat.
It is highly likely that smoke will be seen coming from the interior of the fire for several days, possibly weeks. A significant rainfall is needed to fully extinguish the fire. The remaining crews will continue to patrol the containment lines and take suppression actions as needed.
After tonight, updates will only be posted here on an intermittent basis.
Thursday, June 2 at 8:00 pm
Firefighters continue making good progress on the Menkhaven Fire. Persistent mop-up along the lines and the interior of the fire has reduced the risk of escape. Fire size remains at 242 acres. With this consideration, Incident Command has increased containment to 75%. Perimeters are being patrolled and reinforced as needed. Suppression repair plans are being developed. The fire will begin demobilizing crews on Friday evening. Command will be transferred to a Type 4 Incident Command structure on Saturday morning.
Again, Friday operations will include continued mop-up and line patrolling. Plans are being finalized for additional resource demobilization through the weekend.
Highway 17 has been re-opened with no restrictions. Motorists are asked to use extreme caution when passing through the fire area.
Forest Service Road (FSR) #101 will open Saturday. FSR #102 was opened today.
There will be a Friday evening update with less frequent updates after that.
Wednesday, June 1 at 8:00 pm
Another day of good progress on the Menkhaven fire has allowed Incident Commanders to report increased containment to 65% with the fire remaining at 242 acres. No suppression aircraft was used on the fire today. However, the Multi Mission Aircraft conducted an infrared reconnaissance mission today which will provide ground crews with information on residual heat locations. Crews spent the day mopping up along all perimeters and gridding to detect remaining heat that could pose a threat to control lines.
The fire has stopped spreading for a variety of reasons. The fire retardant from airtankers is designed to slow the spread of fires. It does not extinguish them. Primarily, retardant reduces the availability of fuels to burn and moderates fire behavior, making it safe enough for on-the ground firefighters to work on the fire’s edge. Another reason for the fire to slow spreading or stop, is the availability of dry fuels. Dry grass and fuels located on southern facing slopes will burn much more readily than green grasses and wetter fuels found on the more northern facing slopes. Areas less exposed to sunlight also slow the fire, which was the case on portions of the Menkhaven Fire.
“Mopping – up” is where firefighters extinguish all areas of remaining heat within a determined area. This reduces the opportunity for the fire to cross the containment lines and spread into unburned areas. These small pockets of heat are detected by a method referred to as “cold trailing.” This is where the firefighters use their bare hands to feel if there is heat remaining in suspected areas such as deep ash pits, stump holes, and log ends.
Gridding is the combined action of mopping up and cold trailing conducted by crews lining up and methodically progressing through the burned area looking for remaining heat spots. When a firefighter detects heat, the entire line stops while the heat source is cooled to the touch.
Again, Thursday operations will be similar to today’s activity - mop-up and handline improvement. Plans are being improved for resource demobilization, suppression activity rehabilitation, and incident command transfer when increased containment is reached.
One lane traffic on Highway 17 through the fire area is expected to continue on Thursday, June 2. Operations will continue to evaluate the need for the lane closure on Friday.
Forest Service road #102 is scheduled to be re-opened on Friday.
Point of clarification, the fire started on Conejos County (private) jurisdiction lands and burned onto the Rio Grande National Forest.
Tuesday, May 31 at 9:00 pm
Firefighters made good progress again today in strengthening control lines and mopping up. Gridding operations are being conducted to methodically detect and extinguish hotspots, especially near the fire lines. Perimeters are being patrolled and reinforced as needed. The containment has not been increased today. Incident commanders want to ensure the established fire lines will hold.
Unfortunately, one minor injury was reported today. The firefighter is cleared to return to duty.
One lane traffic on Highway 17 through the fire area is expected to continue on Wednesday. Operations will evaluate the need for lane closure on a daily basis.
Wednesday operations will be similar to today’s activity - mop-up and handline improvement. Plans are being developed for resource demobilization, suppression activity rehabilitation, and incident command transfer when increased containment is reached.
The Conejos County Sheriff announced that the fire was caused by a tree hitting a powerline.
There will only be one update daily from now on.
Monday, May 30 at 9:00 pm
The fire area experienced strong winds today which elevated safety concerns for ground crews who, despite the challenges, have strengthened the control features and gained significant containment. New spot fires were also detected today, and crews responded rapidly and are working to contain those fires as well. No aerial resources were used today due to the high winds. However, the MMA did conduct a reconnaissance mission and mapped the fire at 242 acres.
The Conejos County Sheriff will begin allowing residents that were evacuated back into their homes at 9:00 pm tonight.
Highway 17 will also re-open to two-way traffic at 9:00pm. To ensure everyone’s safety, motorists driving through the fire area are advised to not stop where firefighting actions are occurring on the roadside. Highway 17 will be reduced to one lane traffic on Tuesday to facilitate roadside fire suppression activities.
Power has been restored to the area.
Monday, May 30 ay 1100 am.
The Menkhaven Fire was reported at ~3:15 on Saturday, May 28, 2022. At 10:00pm the fire was estimated at 197 acres in size. There is no new size estimate since then. The Multi Mission Aircraft were unable to launch due to high winds and cloud cover. This will likely be the case again today.
Evacuations remain in effect for all homes north of Highway 17 between Horca and Fox Creek. The communities of Horca and Fox Creek have not been ordered to evacuate. All residents on the south side of Highway 17, between Fox Creek and Horca, are on pre-evacuation notice. A reentry plan is being developed for when it is determined safe to allow residents back in the area.
Highway 17 remains closed from Fox Creek to Horca. Forest Service roads #101 and 102 are also closed.
Today’s plan will have ground firefighters working to finish and strengthen the hand lines, especially on the east and west flanks of the steep canyon slopes. Aerial resources may not be utilized today due to high winds. At the top, crews will continue work with the dozers to construct and secure both the main fire and spot fires. The fire area received light precipitation and much cooler temperatures overnight. No fire spread was reported this morning. Currently, containment is 0% but, depending on todays activities, may increase to reflect the ground resources successes.
Weather today is, once again, very conducive to rapid fire growth. County, state and federal officials urge all residents and visitors to use extreme cautions when outdoors. Conejos County and all federal lands in the area are under Stage 1 fire restrictions.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The next update is planned for Monday evening.