UPDATE (5/30 9:00 p.m.): The fire area experienced strong winds on Monday 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, and crews responded rapidly and are working to contain those fires as well. No aerial resources were used due to the high winds.
The fire is now at 242 acres.
The Conejos County Sheriff began allowing residents that were evacuated back into their homes at 9:00 p.m. Monday.
Highway 17 re-opened to two-way traffic at 9:00 p.m. as well. 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.
UPDATE (5/30 11:00 a.m.): The fire size remains estimated at 197 acres. Reconnaissance flights were unable to launch due to high winds and cloud cover.
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 re-entry plan is being developed for when firefighters determine it’s 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.
UPDATE: Pre-evacuation notices have been announced for Conejos Canyon residents on the South Side of Hwy 17 from Fox Creek to Horca Area.
All residents in pre-evacuation are asked to shelter in place. San Luis Valley Emergency says, “Do not leave your residence. Once you leave, you will not be allowed back in due to the fire zone closures.”
CONEJOS COUNTY, Colo. — A wildfire burning in Conejos County called Menkhaven Fire has burned 197 acres as of Saturday night, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The fire was first reported around 3 p.m. near milepost 20 on Colorado State Highway 17 at the Menkhaven Subdivision, approximately 18 miles west of Antonito. The fire is approximately 7 miles northwest of Fox Creek and has wrapped around Forest Road 101. The fire continues to spread into the La Jara Creek area.
The community north of Highway 17 from Fox Creek to Horca is being evacuated to Parish Hall in Antonito, Colorado. The Red Cross will be at the evacuation location for assistance. The Aspen Glade campground on the Conejos Peak Ranger District has been placed on pre-evacuation standby. Highway 17 is closed in the area.
Firefighters with Rio Grande National Forest are assisting local volunteer firefighters along with multiple hotshot crews. Several tankers are also dropping water on this wildfire.
The fire is burning in a steep canyon in mixed conifer fuels with brush and aspen. Numerous engines from Conejos County, the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention & Control, and the Rio Grande National Forest are on the scene. The helicopter that was ordered was grounded due to high winds. Hotshot crews and various overhead resources have also been called.
Authorities are investigating a downed power line as a point of ignition.
Heavy smoke from the Menkhaven fire is possible overnight in southern Conejos County, especially for areas along the Conejos River into the Fox Creek area.
This is a developing story. Stay with FOX21 News for the latest.