MOFFAT COUNTY, Colo. – The state’s largest wildfire surprised firefighters after strong winds from passing thunderstorms pushed the blaze in numerous directions Friday, making containment difficult for hundreds of crews fighting the fire.
The Peekaboo Fire, burning 44 miles northwest of Maybell in Moffat County, was 12,675 acres in size and was 5 percent contained as of Saturday night, according to the Peekaboo Fire Information Facebook page.
The Colorado National Guard on Saturday responded to a request from Moffat County authorities after they requested some help to fight the fire. They will send two UH-60 Black Hawks with crews and aerial water buckets -- each carrying 500 gallons of water.
Meanwhile, the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center has requested two CH-47 Chinook helicopters to serve as standby aerial firefighting assets staged at Buckley Air Force Base.
On Friday, firefighters worked on scouting safe access to the fireline on the north portion of the fire. On the south and southwestern potions of the fire, crews worked on protecting structures and keeping the fire north of Highway 318.
Despite their efforts, the strong winds and thunderstorms pushed the fire out of control in several directions making control of the wildfire difficult, according to incident commander Shane Greer.
Crews are now working to build direct containment lines and will also focus on attacking the fire where they will have a high probability of success. But limited resources, combined with a challenging access to the blaze, are making it difficult for firefighters to meet their suppression strategy, Greer stated.
A temporary flight restriction is in place to allow fire crews on the air to fight the fire safely.
Weather concerns and road closures
A high pressure system will remain in the area on Saturday. Thunderstorms are expected to continue to develop in the afternoons, which could bring more strong winds that could negatively affect firefighting efforts.
Moffat County Road 10N is closed to the public.
The Peekaboo Fire, which has been burning for nearly two weeks on Cold Springs Mountain north of Brown’s Park National Wildlife Refuge, was started after lightning struck in the area. A total of 200 firefighters are fighting the blaze.