Foresters reopen roads on Abajos affected by fire

A view of the Abajo Mountain range from the town of La Sal shows smoke and clouds over the range, as firefighters work to get three wildland blazes under control. Photo by Sena Hauer

The Manti-La Sal National Forest on Wednesday reopened roads and trails leading to popular recreation areas north of the Bears Ears buttes as containment grew on the nearby Peavine Canyon and Poison Canyon fires.

Dry Mesa Road (Forest Road [FR] 50108) is open from its intersection with FR 50340. Restrictions also were lifted on spur roads north of Dry Mesa Road. Peavine Corridor (FR 50089) reopened at the trailhead junction with South Elk Ridge Road (FR 500888).

Hikers are likewise free to use the Brushy Knoll Trail (Forest Trail 023) and Peavine Canyon (Forest Trail 157).

“We know that hunters and hikers want access to Dry Mesa and these other parts of the forest and wilderness area,” Incident Commander John Shaffer said Tuesday, July 13. “It wasn’t safe to allow that until our containment numbers got closer to 100%.”

Containment on Tuesday was 85% on the Poison Canyon Fire and 90% on the Peavine Canyon Fire. Acreage stayed the same on both fires, though some interior fuels continued to burn.

“The smoke has lessened considerably from Peavine and Poison Canyon,” said Shaffer, whose attention has shifted farther up the mountain, where lightning sparked a third fire Aug. 6 near the Chippean Rocks.

Over the weekend, crews finished burning a 126-acre parcel south of the Causeway Road where the fire originated. The parcel more than doubled the total size of the fire, bringing it to 227 acres. They spent Tuesday reinforcing control lines around a prized stand of ponderosa pine on the opposite side of Causeway Road near the conspicuous sandstone ridge for which the fire was named.

“We want to take advantage of the time we have to prepare for an opportunity to safely ignite brush and litter in the understory for the long-term health of that part of the forest,” Shaffer said. “On Tuesday, the winds and temperatures were too high to burn, but if a window opens on Wednesday, we plan to move ahead,” he said in a press release.

Fire crews broke camp at the Peavine Canyon trailhead last Friday and moved support operations to a site near the Nizhoni Campground to better address the newer Chippean fire. A handful of firefighters stayed behind to monitor and complete work on the Peavine Canyon and Poison Canyon fires, each of which was 50% contained by July 11. The Peavine Canyon Fire was expected to hold at 3,904 acres and Poison Canyon Fire at 1,477 acres.

“We’re also asking that anyone wanting to fly drones anywhere near the fire ground those devices immediately if they see helicopters or other fire-related aircraft,” Shaffer said. “If they fly, we can’t.”