DENVER — The Menkhaven Fire burning in Conejos County is now 65% contained, according to a Wednesday evening update.
The fire, which was first reported on Saturday around 3:15 p.m., has burned 242 acres approximately 7 miles northwest of Fox Creek in the Menkhaven subdivision along the Conejos River, according to a spokesperson for the Rio Grande National Forest. It was started from sparks created by a tree on a powerline, according to the Conejos County sheriff.
The fire has stopped spreading, according to Wednesday's update.
Mandatory evacuations were issued for the Menkhaven subdivision and all homes north of Highway 17 between Horca and Fox Creek, which included less than 100 people, forest officials said. The Conejos County Sheriff’s Office allowed evacuees to return to their homes at 9 p.m. Monday.
Highway 17 had to close nine miles south of Antonito up to mile point 28 near Cumbres Pass on Saturday, but it was reopened to two-way traffic by 9 p.m. Monday. The road will be down to one-lane traffic on Tuesday to help with roadside fire suppression activities, which could be in place for a few days, forest officials said.
Power has also been restored to the area, but the Conejos County Emergency Management recommends returning residents check this guide to determine what to look out for after the outage.
Strong winds in the fire area elevated safety concerns for ground crews on Monday, but they were still able to strengthen the control features on the fire, as well as significantly increase containment. New spot fires were also detected Monday, and crews are working to contain those as well. Aerial resources were being released Monday evening.
Firefighters continued to make good progress Tuesday, including strengthening control lines, mopping up and perimeter patrol and reinforcement. However, containment did not increase. One firefighter did report a minor injury but has been cleared to return to duty.
Similar operations will continue Wednesday with plans being developed for resource demobilization, suppression activity rehabilitation and incident command transfer when crews are able to increase containment.
The fire is burning in a steep canyon in mixed conifer fuels with brush and aspen. Crews expect to have the fire contained by June 10.
Stage 1 Fire Restrictions remain in effect for Conejos County and the Rio Grande National Forest.