Wind-driven fire causes $400K in damage in Conejos County

Courtesy photo Multiple fire agencies responded to a fire Friday morning at Colorado Aspen in Conejos County.

Agencies from across southern San Luis Valley contain blaze

CONEJOS COUNTY — A wind-driven fire caused an estimated $400,000 in damage to furniture-grade logs Friday morning, Dec. 2 at Colorado Aspen in Conejos County, according to the Monte Vista Fire Department.

The fire was initially reported by a caller at 4:18 a.m. as a grass fire behind a residence on the southern edge of Rio Grande County on East County Road 11 South.

MVFD Lt. Cody Sullivan said they arrived and found the fire was farther south in the 6900 block of County Road FF in Conejos County at Colorado Aspen, located directly behind Greenie Mountain Lumber.

Colorado Aspen makes wood furniture. Several stacks of their wood were engulfed in flames when MVFD arrived.

“When we got out there it was multiple logging decks burning,” Sullivan said. “The log decks stretched for about an eighth of a mile. There was six of them.”

Sullivan said there were at least 50 mph sustained winds at the time, “so that was a big issue. The heat and fire load that was there was an issue. We went immediately to structure protection. We were very successful in saving all the structures there. The only loss was the logs.”

Sullivan said several structures were threatened, including the buildings at Colorado Aspen and Greenie Mountain Lumber and neighboring residences.

Sullivan said they successfully contained the fire to the wood stacks and did not allow it to spread to nearby “stubble fields.”

In addition to MVFD, resources from Alamosa, Antonito, Romeo, Carmel, Capulin, and La Jara were instrumental in attacking the fire, Sullivan said. Conejos County Sheriff’s Office also assisted. More than 40 firefighters from the multiple departments were at the fire.

“The big threat, too, with the wind was the ember shower pushing the fire into stubble fields of straw and into the grass out there,” Sullivan said. “We had six brush trucks, creating a buffer out there so it wouldn’t spread to the nearby fields and make a bigger mess. We were very successful with that.”

The glow of the fire was visible for miles and reports were coming in from 35 miles away, Sullivan said he later learned.

Southway Construction, another business in the area, pitched in as well, Sullivan said.

“We were able to utilize a 980 loader from their pit. Rocky Southway is a lifesaver with that,” Sullivan said. “Southway Construction helped us big time with that.”

The loader was able to consolidate the burning logs into two separate piles.

At about 11 a.m. the fire was considered contained and mop-up consumed the next couple of hours. Sullivan said the departments dumped nearly 220,000 gallons of water on the piles. No injuries were reported.

“It will continue to smoke for days but it’s contained,” Sullivan said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Sullivan said.