Close as it gets; Saving Cuchara from the Spring Fire

Posted at 7:35 PM, Jul 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-09 21:35:33-04

The small mountain town of Cuchara came extremely close to burning the Spring Fire. The fire was more than close it burned into and around homes on the north edge of the Cuchara Valley.

 As the fire headed toward Cuchara, Incident District Supervisor Jim Genung   was tasked with finding a plan to save the town. He thought he had three or four days, the fire got there in 36 hours. “It’s not something you could really stop. It was humanly impossible to stop a fire like that.” With uncommon behavior it came over a mountain ridge during the morning and moved down a drainage to what is basically the north end of Cuchara.

Genung went full force with multiple firefight tactics. There are many homes still standing because boots on the ground firefighting crews dug hand-lines and protected them. “As the fire came toward the house we would just light the grass and let the fire back into the brush.” you see up there.

At the same time, support from the air made multiple fire retardent drops to slow the flames. Dozers were also cutting multiple lines on the edge of town. The plan was diverting flames rather than stopping them. “Keep working it around town until we got it out away from town.”

If crews could get the fire passed town, Genung was looking at runs on the old abandoned ski hill as possible fire breaks. “One particulary that’s a really good angle that could really help me drive the fire up to tree line.”

All the preparation, delaying and diverting tactics went in as defensive measures. They turned to offense when a sudden change in the weather allowed for measures like back burns.

“We got lucky with some weather that day. We had winds pushing at us and just out of nowhere, it would push away from us,” said Genung, “So we had opportunities to put some fire on the ground and push fire back up the hill.” Crews ended up stopping and cutting off the fires progess on the south flank.?