National park reopened Wednesday evening

Photos by Owen Woods |


A lightning strike caused a grassland fire in a designated wildlife area near the Great Sand Dunes National Park Wednesday afternoon, burning 306 acres before fire crews brought it under control.

The national park reopened at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday evening from the Medano Fire, said Katherine Faz, public information officer for the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. She said the fire was 80 percent contained when the Sand Dunes reopened and fire crews would work until it was fully contained heading into Thursday.

The national park, which has been setting annual attendance records, closed inbound traffic and its visitor center shortly after the fire began around 3 p.m. Faz said the Sand Dunes had seen good attendance during the week. One of its biggest weekends, traditionally, is the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend.

Park staff, the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Alamosa Fire Department, Mosca/Hooper Fire Department, and responding personnel from the San Luis Valley Interagency Fire Management Unit all mobilized to the scene.

The area that burned is a designated wildlife area, which meant that vehicles weren’t permitted to mobilize for the first part of the fight. Ground crews with hand tools worked firelines until winds picked up to 30 miles per hour. A full mobilization was then issued and water trucks were able to get to the midst of the fire. 

Prevailing winds kept fire crews on their toes as fire lines shifted. Strong winds from the west pushed the fire east up to Highway 150. Crews were able to put a stop to the fire before it crossed the road. Alamosa County Emergency Manager Eric Treinen mentioned that if the fire had crossed the road into the Piñon forests, it would have been a different story. 

Some scenes from the fire:

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