DOLORES, Colo. (CBS4) — A band of coal believed to have been ignited by a wildfire last summer was discovered by rangers recently when small flames emerged from a patch of hillside fissures. It is called the Coal Seam Fire.
U. S. Forest Service personnel encountered smoldering ground cover Oct. 9 in the McPhee Park area about 10 miles northeast of Dolores. No above-surface points of ignition were apparently evident.
“A fire crew put out the surface fire in a little more than one day,” Patrick Seekins, fire management officer for the Dolores Ranger District, told the Cortez Journal. “But it continues to smolder and glow below ground.”
The red-hot deposit of coal is believed to have been started by the Plateau Fire of 2018.
“The seam is extremely hot,” the Forest Service stated in a press release Friday, “and will continue to burn for an indefinite period of time producing minimal amounts of smoke and a strong odor of creosote that will be noticeable. The ground in and around the coal seam is extremely unstable and the area should be avoided.”
The area of the burning coal seam is about 30 yards long and 10 yards wide on an unstable 30-degree slope, according to the Cortez Journal. Occasional puffs of smoke accompanied the smell of burning coal. Cattle graze in this general area and hunters in trucks pass through on a nearby road.
Warning signs were placed along roadsides.
Rangers cleared further fuel from around the fissures to thwart further surface ignition, but intend to monitor the area in the meantime.
A team of experts will attempt to determine the size of the underground coal seam – and consequently the length of time it will burn – sometime next year.
– Visit CBSDenver.com’s Colorado Wildfires section.
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