May 2, 2011 12:42 AM by Jeannette Hynes
Snow blankets 555 acres of charred land near Wetmore. While smoke or flames aren't visible Sunday, the Sand Gulch Fire is not out.
"It could be smoldering around in stump holes and other heavy fuel pockets, so we're going to look for that over the next few days," explains Gregg Goodland, fire information officer with the San Isabel National Forest.
The fire started Tuesday night from a lightning strike.
People who live near the fire say they question the decision not to put the fire out Tuesday or Wednesday when it was one tree burning on a steep hill. They spent a couple of hours Sunday night asking the
U.S. Forest Service management team questions.
"It was a judgment error. There's no doubt it was a serious judgment error," says Robert Hamilton. The fire has burned more than 100 acres of his property. "We haven't been able to sleep because we knew that the error was made but we hoped for the best."
The Forest Service cites firefighter safety and the need for a fire to keep a forest healthy in the long run as reasons for how they made their plans.
"The intent of not suppressing any single flank on a fire is to reduce the fuel load up in areas, especially above communities like this," says Goodland.
While the Forest Service will assess each fire as it happens and make plans accordingly, it admits, it will try to do a better job at communicating so people have time to react.
The fire is 50% contained and 100 people are dedicated to the fire fighting efforts. Crews anticipate a warm, dry week ahead. As the snow melts, firefighters will work to keep the fire from spreading.