Mesa Verde National Park: Lightning Ignites Three Wildfires in a Single Day

by Jon D. B.

Not one, but three wildfires were ignited by lightning throughout the rough terrain of Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park, leaving firefighters scrambling.

Mid-day on Friday, July 22, a dry lightning storm took over Mesa Verde National Park. In the process, intense lightning strikes ignited three fires. Soon after, fire lookouts would spot two of the wildfires: Long Fire and Moccasin Fire. But it took an air attack plane to spot the third, the park reports.

This third fire, the Soda Fire, would require an infra-red camera for detection. Soda Fire was spotted on the return flight from mapping the Long Fire. The latter became the largest of the three fires, mapped at 24 acres as of Friday evening.

Thankfully, Mesa Verde National Park Engine Crew were able to contain the Moccasin Fire at 0.1 acres, preventing disaster. Due to poor access and safety concerns, however, crews were unable to access the larger Long Fire on Friday evening.

To prevent the blaze’s spread, two single-engine air tankers laid retardant lines around the Long Fire. Additional helicopter support dropped water, “cooling off the hottest areas,” the park adds.

Saturday and Sunday saw continued use of helicopters as NPS shuttled firefighters from Mesa Verde and San Juan National Forest to the Long Fire. Crews were able to secure 50% of the fire perimeter via this water support.

In addition, late rain on Sunday helped finish securing the fire perimeter. 

Mesa Verde National Park’s Soda Fire Continues to Burn

Unfortunately, of the three fires, the Soda Fire continues to burn. It is, however, only a single tree as of NPS’s last report. But the tree is in an inaccessible location, leaving the blaze active. Currently, it remains visible from the park’s Balcony House Overlook.

Fire management staff will continue to monitor the Soda Fire to ensure it poses no threat to resources or public safety. At this time, Mesa Verde National Park is open and no services are impacted at this time.  

Light smoke may be visible from the Long Fire for several days, however. Thankfully, NPS doesn’t expect any further growth in Mesa Verde.

California, however, continues to battle raging wildfires. “Governor Gavin Newsom today proclaimed a state of emergency for Mariposa County due to the effects of the Oak Fire, which has destroyed homes, threatened critical infrastructure and forced the evacuation of more than three thousand residents,” reads the governor’s office statement as the fire rages outside Yosemite National Park.

“Driven by hot, dry weather and drought conditions, the Oak Fire has burned more than 11,500 acres since it began burning,” the statement continues.