Snow brings cautious optimism for Decker Fire crews

SALIDA, Colo. - - Few people were more excited to see snow come to southern Colorado than the crews working on containing and extinguishing the Decker Fire.

The fire that started on Sept. 8 about nine miles south of Salida has burned a little more than 7,000 acres in Sangre de Cristo mountains. It has since crept within two miles of the mountain town.

On Thursday, instead of seeing large smoke clouds hanging above Methodist Mountain, where are large portion of the fire has occurred, the people of Salida saw about half an inch of snow.

For the 900-plus personnel working the Decker Fire, the snow brings cautious optimism.

"We are glad to see it but it's not going to put the fire out," said Rick Barton, a Public Information Officer with the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Management Team.

Barton says despite the snowfall in Salida, people can still expect to see crews at work, helicopters dropping buckets, and smoke in the air in the coming days.

"Those fuels have been so dry for so long, this isn't going to put it out we are going to need a lot more snow," said Barton. "But what it does mean is it gives us a little extra time, a little more moisture."

That's more time for crews to sure up their hand lines and dozer lines to protect properties.

However, this moisture may not last.

Decker Fire meteorologists say there could be a red flag warning in the area as soon as this weekend.

"For the people of Salida, thank you for your patience," said Barton. "This is not an easy fire just to go in and put out. This is a fire with a lot of steep terrain and a lot of rugged terrain."

Firefighters have heard the city's gratitude. On Tuesday, several of the local middle and elementary schools wrote cards and drew big banners thanking the firefighters for their work. 

The Decker Fire is still at 14% containment, and The Rocky Mountain Management crew currently doesn't have plans to downsize the 900 some personnel they have right now.

Despite the snowfall, certain neighborhoods like Bear Creek are still under evacuation. However, Barton says more and more of the 130 homeowners are being allowed back into their homes every day.

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