Colo. Wildfire Reaches Indian Land

Saturday, July 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK, Colo. (AP) — A wildfire that had already burned 3,500 acres made a 3-mile run before dawn Saturday, spreading into nearby land on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation.

The park remained closed as more than 350 firefighters backed by aircraft dropping chemical flame retardants struggled to reach flames sweeping through the park's canyons.

Fire officials were still working to map the size of the blaze, which was on the eastern boundary of the park, about 260 miles southwest of Denver.

``When they get this big, you don't put them out,'' said Tim Oliverious of the U.S. Park Service. ``It will take a major change in the weather, topography or fuels, and right now the forces are lined up in favor of the fire.''

None of the park's well-known ancient Indian ruins, cliff dwellings or other attractions were damaged, Oliverious said. No injuries were reported.

Officials said the fire, apparently caused by lightning, was so intense it was creating powerful updrafts, in effect making its own weather rather than being pushed by winds.

Officials closed the park Thursday afternoon as the fire grew from 50 acres to 500 acres in about three hours. About 1,000 tourists were evacuated.

Fires have burned 2.8 million acres nationwide so far this season, the worst acreage total since 1996, according to figures from the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho.