IN a matter of days this week, firefighters, police, and other emergency personnel have battled fires in Alamosa and Monte Vista, prompting calls for residents across the San Luis Valley to be prepared in the event of a fire or other emergencies that may require evacuation.

The fire in an open grassy field on State Avenue in Alamosa on Monday had the potential to cause extensive damage were it not for the quick work by Alamosa fire and police and then other fire crews and emergency responders from across the San Luis Valley.

While devastating, Wednesday’s fire in Monte Vista also had the potential for an even worse scenario were it not for the fire crews and Valley-wide response from emergency responders. 

“That’s one of the great things about the San Luis Valley, we work together,” said Rodney King, emergency services director in Conejos County and who was on the scene in Monte Vista. “We don’t always get along on everything, but when it comes right down to it the differences go to the side and we work together to help each other.”

Monte Vista Police Chief George Dingfelder said “knowing this fire was going to exceed our scope and abilities,” he made a quick tactical decision that likely saved additional devastation when he requested the Colorado Department of Fire Prevention and Control take over in managing the fire.

“All the fire departments in the San Luis Valley are helping each other out,” said Paul Duarte, deputy chief state fire who managed the Monte Vista command center.

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Rodney King, emergency services director for Conejos County, talks about emergency preparedness. Listen HERE.

Have A Plan

The back-to-back fires have emergency personnel concerned as severe drought conditions continue to create extreme fire danger for the Valley and all of its communities. King was a guest on The Valley Pod, a podcast by Alamosa Citizen, when the Monte Vista fire was raging. He offered this advice for San Luis Valley residents.

“One of the things that we preach constantly is to be prepared. Have a plan, whether it’s for fire or flood or whatever, have a plan,” he said.

“If they’re prepared they have a kit that has all the stuff they need to last for a couple of days. They just pick it up and run out the house with it. You have a plan on how you’re going to evacuate and where you’re going to evacuate. You have a plan on who you’re going to notify. That takes a lot of pressure off the situation.”

Most Monte Vista evacuees back in homes

Most residents who were evacuated due the Monte Vista fire were allowed to return to their homes late Wednesday night, and investigators said there is no indication or reason to believe the fire was intentional at this stage of their inquiry into the fire.

There have been no reports of injuries or missing persons, Monte Vista police said. They estimate that 15 structures were destroyed or damaged. Displaced families are being offered assistance through Rio Grande County Department of Social Services and the San Luis Valley Victim Response Unit.

The city of Monte Vista and Rio Grande County are working together to declare this a disaster area, which will bring state and federal funding to assist those affected by the fire.

The Monte Vista Police Department, Colorado Bureau of Investigation and fire investigators from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control continue to investigate the origin and cause of the fire and have officers and agents working in the damage zone today. 

The city, in a statement released Thursday said, “The City of Monte Vista recognizes the extreme impact this fire has had on the community and will continue to work with the victims and those directly affected by this fire. We also offer our appreciation to all the surrounding first responders, especially our volunteer fire departments, law enforcement agencies, and the community members and businesses who provide resources, food, drinks, and other supplies for the victims.”


The website is the best place to sign up for emergency alerts for each county in the San Luis Valley. You can determine how you want to be notified, via cell, home phone, or text message. Your information should be updated annually.

“Be ready for the first 72 hours to take care of yourself because it takes time,” said Rodney King from Conejos County Emergency Management. 

Aerial view of Monte Vista fire courtesy KMGH-Denver7 News