Colorado wildfires: Great Sand Dunes National Park reopens after lightning sparks fire

Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
Great Sand Dunes National Park sits below the west side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the San Luis Valley.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park has reopened after a lightning strike ignited a wildfire in the grasslands along its main entrance road on Wednesday. The fire temporarily shut down inbound traffic and closed the visitor center for several hours. 

As of 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday, the 306-acre Medano Fire was 80 percent contained, according to a statement from the park. Crews worked through the night to suppress the fire’s growth.

No injuries were reported, and the fire did not appear to reach the park’s main campground or famous dunes.

The incident was the latest close call during an already active fire week across Southern Colorado. The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning about dangerous fire conditions, which will last through Thursday afternoon due to dry and hot weather.

In Teller County, the High Park Fire, which ignited over the weekend, was 87 percent contained as of Thursday morning. All evacuation orders for nearby residents have been lifted.

North of Pagosa Springs, the Plumtaw Fire grew slightly to 735 acres on Wednesday. Evacuation orders remain in effect for the Lost Valley of the San Juans neighborhood. 

The Pagosa Springs airport remains open. Fire incident managers have not released a containment estimate. In an update posted to Facebook, they warned that warm and dry conditions Thursday “may bring challenges to Plumtaw Fire resources.” 

“A red flag warning is predicted to bring high winds and low relative humidity to the area,” the update said. 

Some relief may be in sight, however. A late winter storm is forecast to move across much of the state starting Thursday night and lasting through Friday. It could bring several inches of snow to some areas.