Colorado Parks and Wildlife Southeast Colorado Wildfire Report 4/13/22

Description: The Wildfire Burns on the Arkansas River. (Photo Credit: Bents Old Fort Park Superintendent Stuart West)

Published: 04/13/2022
Byline: Hart

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Wildfire Report -Areas Closed to The Public

Southeast Colorado - On April 12 Bent and Otero Counties were hit by five different fires.  Within those five fires, two of them hit four different State Wildlife Areas.  It is estimated that 2400 acres were burned in Bent County and 1650 acres were burned in Otero. As of now the cause of the fires is unknown.

At approximately 9:00 a.m. a fire started on Bent’s Fort National Historic Site.  The fire was believed to be extinguished late in the morning.  By early afternoon, the flames were fueled by strong wind and started back up again.  This fire spread quickly and jumped the river onto Oxbow State Wildlife Area.  The flames quickly spread across the property completely engulfing the river bottom along the northern border of the property.  The fire also spread into the southern portion of the property.  The property lost a lean-to as well as two small storage sheds.  Other than the structures several small pieces of equipment were damaged.  It is estimated that nearly 75% of the property was burned including many of the trees.  Five tree rows were lost as well as countless cottonwoods that lined the river bottom.  After the fire, trees and large branches could be seen falling all over the property during post fire inspection. 

Due to the dangers we have closed the property until we can clean the burned and damaged area as well as assess falling trees and other public safety risks. 

At roughly the same time that the fire on Oxbow ignited, another fire started just outside of Las Animas, CO on the river bottom.  Fueled by wind gusting near 40 miles per hour, the fire quickly spread east and south through the river bottom.  After burning through several miles of river bottom, the fire entered the west end of John Martin Reservoir State Wildlife Area.  It quickly spread into Ft Lyon State Wildlife Area as well as Keller State Trust Land.  Fire crews were able to stop the fire as it crossed the railroad tracks at Keller STL.  The wind began to shift late in the afternoon as the fire was leaving the east end of Ft Lyon SWA and moving back onto JMR SWA.  This helped slow the fire in the river bottom just east of the town of Ft Lyon near Bent County Road 16. 

Ft Lyon SWA burned area was approximately 80% of the total property.  A very small portion of John Martin Reservoir SWA was burned.  The main portion of these properties that were burned were marshy wetlands (known Eastern Black Rail Habitat) as well as treed river bottom.  Due to the impacts, CPW closed JMR and Ft Lyon SWA north of the railroad tracks and west of Bent County Road 16 to public access until further notice. On all of the properties several miles of fence and many signs were lost to the fire. 

We are already working on plans to reseed upland areas of the properties that were lost.  Over the past few years we have had fires go through other marsh wetlands nearby.  With those, the wetlands came back very strong in time for Eastern Black Rail nesting season.  We are confident that the same will happen with the recent fire but we will monitor growth progress.  Over the next few weeks we will be assessing the many lost trees to find which ones are stable and which ones pose a threat of falling. 

We will be bringing in equipment to clean up lost structures and equipment as well as falling trees that need to come down.  After it is felt that it is safe, we will re-open the properties to the public.

Related Content:

Livestream Coverage:

Bent’s Old Fort Wildfire Photo Gallery by Van Hollis

Southeast Colorado Wild Fire Community Photo Gallery

Donations for Las Animas Fire Fighter Jason GarciaDonations for Las Animas Fire Fighter Jason Garcia

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