Lime Gulch Fire: 600 acres burned in Jefferson County

Fire 5% contained

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. - Fire officials estimate that the Lime Gulch Fire has grown to about 600 acres on Thursday afternoon.

At a 3 p.m. briefing, Incident Commander Dan Dallas said he expects to get a more accurate assessment of the fire's size when they do aerial infrared mapping overnight. Dallas said he wouldn't be able to provide a figure on fire containment until Friday morning.

There are about 255 firefighters battling the fire located in Jefferson County near Pine, Reynolds Park, Cathedral Spires and Chair Rocks.

The air attack on the fire includes military C-130 transport planes outfitted with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (or Maffs) along with two civilian heavy air tankers -- both dropping fire retardant. There are also two heavy helicopters dropping water.

Fire crews on Thursday were trying to establish containment lines around the fire, as well as keep the fire south of the North Fork South Platte River and west of the South Platte River, officials said.

"Right now, the word from the field is things are going very well and they're moving along," Dallas said. "So we're feeling really good about the progress we're making so far." 

Dallas said there are currently no homes or outbuildings threatened. But if conditions change, they have structure-protection teams that will move in to protect buildings from the fire.

The fire was 5 percent contained by Thursday evening -- meaning a containment line was in place around 5 percent of the fire.

"It is very good to see those planes up there," said Fred Ahr, a 27-year firefighter with the North Fork Fire Department. He said it's very hard for ground crews to reach the fire on the steep sides of the South Platte River Canyon.

"The terrain is almost straight up and down," said Ahr, adding that the slopes have large rock formations and are heavily timbered in some places. "So it makes it extremely difficult to get to any place where you can start accomplishing anything."

Jefferson County sheriff's spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said the county's CodeRED alert system had sent evacuation notifications to 410 phones for residents in Buffalo Creek Township and within a 3-mile radius of the intersection of South Foxton Road and Platte River Road. She said the system had reached 353 phones for an 86 percent success rate. "That's a good ratio for us," she added.

"We feel that if we need to hit the button on additional evacuations that system is working well for us," Kelley said.

In addition, there are deputies patrolling the area and if the fire threatens homes, "they're ready to assist with the community in those areas to get people out," Kelley added.

Officials don't have estimates for how many people or homes have been evacuated in the sparely populated mountain community.

Mountain residents said they've learned to cope with the threat of fire.

"This is something people deal with every summer," resident Adam Logic told 7NEWS reporter Lindsey Sablan. "You learn to accept it, yeah. Worrying doesn't do you any good. It makes your stomach hurt. So you just accept it and trust in your fire department."

"People box up (belongings), keep their ready-to-go bags and their important things to get out," he added.

Holly MacNeil is visiting a friend from high school who has been evacuated. The friend's home is a cabin on the river.

"I flew in yesterday and she called me this morning and said, 'Plans have changed. We're on fire,'" MacNeil said. "We were going to sit in the river and visit and play, and so I'm just hoping that her cabin doesn't burn. The fire is right across the river from her cabin, so (it's) not good."

Meanwhile, Douglas County officials say they are making plans to evacuate several neighborhoods if the Lime Gulch Fire grows and changes directions.

"We’re making plans -- and so should you," officials said in an alert sent to people living in Roxborough Village, Roxborough State Park, Roxborough Park subdivision, Waterton Canyon, Ravenna subdivision and parts of Pike National Forest north of Highway 67 and west to Rampart Range Road.

Pre-evacuation orders were issued Wednesday in the area near Night Hawk Hill or to the east of Platte River Road from the river south to West Pine Creek Road. The Spring Creek Subdivision along HIghway 126 was also told to be ready for a possible evacuation.

Waterton Canyon was closed Thursday. Officials did not say when the canyon would reopen.

The Lime Gulch Fire ignited Tuesday evening, but blew up Wednesday afternoon.

Jefferson County Sheriff Ted Mink said the cause is assumed to be lightning.

An evacuation center was established at Evergreen High School. Evacuees were told they could bring large animals to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds and small animals to the Foothills Animal Shelter.

Officials confirmed Thursday that a communications mix-up resulted in the misnaming of the Lime Gulch Fire from the Lion Gulch Fire.  

7NEWS confirmed there were several reports of lightning strikes on Tuesday night and the U.S. Forest Service put out one small fire that night.  Local firefighters were watching the area for smoke on Wednesday morning but did not see anything until the wind picked up. 

"There were people watching from the higher ground with spotting scopes and until right around 12:30, 1:00-ish nothing was coming up at all," said North Fork firefighter Fred Ahr.  That's when the first wisps of smoke popped up on the far side of the South Platte.

See the map of the evacuation area below or if you're on mobile:

View Lime Gulch Fire in a larger map

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