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Pine Gulch Fire, now 19% contained, grows to more than 125,000 acres

Pine Gulch Fire_Aug 20 2020
Posted at 9:00 AM, Aug 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-22 13:46:31-04

UPDATE (11:45 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 22): The Pine Gulch Fire burning north of Grand Junction was 126,613 acres and 19% contained as of Saturday morning after minimal growth Friday, but with a small chance of thunderstorms and outflow winds forecast for Saturday afternoon. Click here to read the latest.

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MESA AND GARFIELD COUNTIES, Colo. — The Pine Gulch Fire grew about 2,300 acres Friday, bringing its total size to 125,191 acres by the evening as fire crews work around the clock to assess, control and monitor the blaze.

It is now 19% contained, according to fire officials. It is the second-largest wildfire in Colorado history. Operations at the fire are active 24 hours a day.

READ MORE: The Pine Gulch Fire got hot enough to produce lightning. Here's how that works

The fire is contained along sections of its southeastern and northeastern edges.

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team said the fire's activity was moderate Thursday morning, but increased by the afternoon, particularly around the south side near the Hunter Burn scar. Storm cells and wind also pushed the fire east toward an established dozer line, but fire officials said the line held.

That area may become active again Friday. Dry fuels, hot temperatures and low humidity are creating ideal conditions for fire spread.

Crews are using roadways — including Highway 139 to the west — and other barriers as containment lines, the incident management team said.

Firefighters will aim to increase containment lines along the fire's south edge Friday, the team said.

If conditions remain favorable in the coming days, firefighters will perform burning operations to keep the fire east of Douglas Pass, where they can engage with it on easier terrain, the incident management team said. However, due to predicted hot and windy weather, crews are assessing structures at the top of Douglas Pass and are preparing roads north of the 256 Road.

The division north of the fire — Division K — will continue its focus of keeping the fire south of 204 Road.

Pine Gulch Fire map_Aug 21 2020

Structure protection groups will work Friday on the west side of the fire along Highway 139 to assess and prepare value, the incident management team said.

The team said they are expected mostly sunny and dry conditions today with 8-11 mph winds and gusts up to 20 mph.

The state's 10 largest fires in history, ranked by acreage, are:
1. Hayman Fire (2002): 137,760 acres
2. Pine Gulch Fire (2020): 125,191 acres
3. Spring Fire (2018): 108,045 acres
4. High Park Fire (2012): 87,284 acres
5. Missionary Ridge Fire (2002): 72,962 acres
6. 416 Fire (2018): 54,000 acres
7. Bridger Fire (2008): 45,800 acres
8. Last Chance Fire (2012): 45,000 acres
9. Bear Springs/Callie Marie fires (2011): 44,662 acres
10. 117 Fire (2018): 42,795 acres

The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center said the West Fork Complex fire, which burned a total of 109,632 acres in 2013, is not included on this list since it involved three separate fires.

The Pine Gulch Fire was first reported on July 31 about 18 miles north of Grand Junction. It was caused by lightning.

Road closures, evacuations, emergency alerts for Pine Gulch Fire

The Mesa County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday afternoon that due to fire activity, several roads have been closed to the public.

These are the closures southeast of the fire:

  • Roan Creek Road/County Road 204 at North Dry Fork Road/County Road 200
  • V 2/10 Road southwest of DeBeque
  • Coal Canyon Road just past the Cameo Shooting Range

These are the closures southwest of the fire:

  • Highway 139 north of Loma between Mile Point 6 and 39 (CDOT closure)
  • 21 Road north of the Bureau of Land Management boundary
  • 16 Road at V 8/10 Road
  • Q 5/10 Road is closed at 18 Road

The Garfield County Sheriff's Office also announced new evacuation orders Wednesday through their Facebook page. Evacuation orders are now in effect for areas on the northwest side of Pine Gulch Fire, as follows:

  • From the Mesa County line north to the east/west Colorado Highway 256 (Four A Ridge Road), including north/south Colorado Highway 256
  • Highway 256/205 moved from pre-evacuation to full evacuation
  • From Highway 139/Douglas Pass road east to the preexisting evacuation order for Carr Creek Road/County Road 207), including Colorado Highway 205 Salt Wash and Kimball Creek Road/County Road 202 on Kimball Mountain. Colorado Highway 258/King Road is evacuated.

Roan Creek Road/County Road 204 above Brush Creek Road/County Road 209 is still under evacuation orders. Everything west of Douglas Pass/Colorado Highway 139 to the Utah state line is also in pre-evacuation status.

To learn more about evacuations, click here.

The Mesa County Sheriff's Office also said they've created an online Fire Information Resource page to keep residents informed. Residents in the affected counties can sign up to receive alerts and new information on the fire here for Garfield County and here for Mesa County.

Click here to learn more about the smoke outlook in Colorado. A temporary flight restriction is in place over the Pine Gulch Fire. No drones can fly in the area.

The Pine Gulch Fire is one of four major fires currently burning in Colorado. Click here for more Denver7 coverage of the wildfires.