Containment Of Colorado Wildfire Is Expected

REDMESA, Colo. (AP) -- Fire officials expected to fully contain a 1,117-acre wildfire burning on Ute Mountain Ute land near Mesa Verde National Park by Wednesday.

With cooler weather, a few raindrops and more crews Tuesday, firefighters had the blaze 80 percent contained. Full control of the fire was expected Friday.

The fire, which grew from about 10 acres to 1,100 after it was spotted Sunday, could have grown much larger had the tribe not thinned vegetation near the blaze as part of fire management efforts in the last few years, fire officials said.

The drought and Ips beetles in recent years left behind dead vegetation that could fuel a large fire. In 2002, the tribe cleared trees and shrubs from a 4 1/2-mile by 100-foot wide strip that happens to lie on the south side of the wildfire. Bureau of Indian Affairs crews widened the fuel break last year, thinning pinon and juniper by hand and burning out the perimeter.

It cost $60,000 to create the 1,200-acre fuel break. Fire officials said that pales in comparison with costs of fighting fires.

The wildfire was burning on Ute Mountain and Southern Ute Indian Reservation land south of Redmesa and about 1 1/2 miles north of the New Mexico line. It was believed to have been started by lightning.

Authorities shut down gas wells near the wildfire Monday. No homes were immediately threatened. One home was about a half mile from the eastern flank of flames.