Costilla County battles brush fires

COSTILLA COUNTY — The Costilla County Fire Department responded to back-to-back brush fires Thursday evening and Friday morning, with about three acres burned in the Indian Creek subdivision Thursday night and about 40 acres burned in a meadow near San Acacio on Friday.

Costilla County Fire Department Chief Alfred Mondragon said Costilla County will join other San Luis Valley counties and federal agencies in instituting a Stage 1 fire ban on Monday. He cautioned residents to be extremely careful, as one little spark can cause a fire, given the dry conditions that exist.

Mondragon said Costilla County firefighters responded to a fire that has been determined to be human caused in the Indian Creek Subdivision in the Trinchera Ranch area east of Fort Garland about 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 17. He said the fire began near a mobile home residence, but no structures were burned in the fire, only juniper and piñon trees. The chief said the fire was located on a good-sized slope however, so it took firefighters quite a while to get it out. Firefighters were on the scene until about 9 p.m. Thursday night.

Chief Mondragon said he believed the fire was human caused, and charges are pending with the Costilla County Sheriff’s Office.

While cleaning up at that scene Friday morning, firefighters were called out again to a brush fire near San Acacio. Chief Mondragon said a farmer had a permit to burn and although it prohibited burning in high wind conditions, he exercised his permit, and the burn got out of control.

“It got away from him,” he said.

The fire burned in grass and brushy meadow areas, with no structures involved, but at least 40 acres consumed on Friday. Mondragon said the conditions were worsened because the wind kicked up.

He said several agencies came to the Costilla County department’s aid including some from southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. He thanked all those who assisted with the fire. “We appreciate the help.”

Assisting with both the Thursday evening and Friday fires was Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control under Battalion Chief Devin Haynie.

Other firefighters assisting the Costilla County department on the San Acacio fire on Friday came from Sanford, Romeo and Manassa in Colorado and Amalia and Taos in New Mexico.

The farmer whose land was involved also helped disc a fire perimeter with his tractor, according to the chief.

“The public needs to know the conditions are so dry any little spark is going to cause a big fire, especially in this wind,” Chief Mondragon said. “It’s a tinderbox right now.”