Containment increases on Colorado wildfires, but dry and warm conditions persist through weekend

Updates as of 2 p.m. Thursday
Posted at 2:03 PM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-04 14:26:29-04

UPDATE (Fri. Sept. 4, 12:25 p.m.): Officials managing the four major wildfires burning in Colorado say they are expecting some increased activity Friday and through the weekend, as hotter temperatures and lower humidity levels move back into the state before a major cool-down next week.

Click here to read the latest.

DENVER — Firefighters continue to increase containment on the four major wildfires burning in Colorado, but are expecting hot temperatures, gusty winds and drier conditions through the weekend before a cold front arrives early next week.

Firefighting efforts for these four fires have cost the state $77 million, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho.

Here is the latest on the four major fires burning in Colorado:

Grizzly Creek Fire

Firefighters were able to increase containment on the Grizzly Creek Fire on Wednesday to 82% – up 7% from that morning, at 32,464 acres. Fire managers said firefighters have secured containment lines on about 64 miles of the 78-mile fire perimeter.

But officials saw warmer and drier conditions Wednesday, which they expect to continue through the weekend. The warmer and drier weather is expected to cause some interior smoke on hot spots well within the fire perimeter that have not fully burned but did not threaten the fire perimeter or any structures.

“It’s a good indicator of what we’ll be seeing over the next four or five days,” said Alaska IMT Operations Chief Jon Glover.

Deputy Incident Commander Tom Kurth said hotshot crews had completed a “major accomplishment” by securing line in the No Name Creek drainage they had been working on for the past week in a steep and rugged area.

Another hotshot crew worked Wednesday in Cinnamon Creek drainage to try to shore up a line there, and that work is expected to continue Thursday.

Drones with infrared cameras are searching for hotspots within 1,000 feet of containment lines, which firefighters will work to mop up. Suppression repair around the fire also continues.

On Friday, the BLM and White River National Forest will be reducing the number of areas closed because of the fire.

Sweetwater Road will open for access to the Flat Top Wilderness. Clinetop Mesa Road is open as well, and Heart Lake and Deep Lake areas will be accessible from the west. BLM trails and Onion Ridge and Keyser Creek will also be open.

But Coffee Pot Road and Transfer Trail Road will remain closed, as well the following trails: Boy Scout/Lookout Mountain, Grizzly Creek, Hanging Lake, Mitchell Creek and No Name. Recreation areas and the boat ramps on the river from Dotsero to No Name remain closed, but above Dotsero, Cottonwood Landing is open for putting in and taking out. Lyons Campground is open for taking out only.

“We know there is a lot of interest in accessing these areas for recreation, including hunting,” said BLM Colorado River Valley Field Manager Larry Sandoval. "We’ve reduced the closure area where it is safe to do so."

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This map shows what closures will remain in effect for the Grizzly Creek Fire when some restrictions are lifted on Friday.

Pine Gulch Fire

Wednesday was a quiet day at the Pine Gulch Fire, with crews focused on continuing to monitor, patrol and mop up the fire.

Small pockets of heat are persisting along the fire's northwest side. On Thursday, crews in that area will focus on mopping up along the southern rim of the East Salt Creek main canyon. Crews around the fire will also continue assessing and repairing damage from fire suppression efforts.

Because the fire is 83% contained, personnel and equipment are being released to help elsewhere.

Thursday will stay sunny and mostly dry, with winds from the west and northwest with gusts up to 20 mph in the afternoon. Warmer temperatures and increased wind is expected this weekend.

The Pine Gulch Fire is the largest wildfire in Colorado history at 139,007 acres. It is not expected to grow any more on Thursday.

All evacuation and pre-evacuation orders have been lifted, according to the Garfield County Sheriff's Office. Road are closed at the following intersections:

  • 266 Road at Highway 139
  • County Road 200 at County Line
  • 21 Road at entrance to Hunter Canyon
  • 16 Road at V8/10 Road
  • County (Roan Creek) Road 204 at 209 intersection
  • End of V2/10 Road at BLM closure
  • Q 5/10 Road at 18 Road
  • Garvey Canyon Road

Cameron Peak Fire

The Cameron Peak Fire was at 23,137 acres and 6% contained on Thursday morning, and officials were expecting more active fire activity with dry conditions throughout the day - even as they deal with a positive case of COVID-19 among the crew.

Officials are giving an update on the fire on Facebook at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

After holding steady for most of the week, fire behavior on Wednesday increased slightly as the area dried out and winds increased, though burned acreage was only up by about 130 acres from Tuesday. A Red Flag Warning was in effect for most of the day Thursday due to dry, warm and windy conditions.

Crews on Thursday are planning to monitor the fire along its perimeter and continue structure mitigation and protection in Crystal Lakes, Redfeather Lakes, Glacier View and other nearby areas.

Colorado Highway 14 remains closed from Rustic to Gould, and some mandatory evacuations are in place near the fire, though most of those areas have been campgrounds and other outdoor spaces.

Click here for updated road closures and evacuations.

Williams Fork Fire

Fire managers at the Williams Fork Fire, which is burning 15 miles southwest of Fraser, are taking advantage of calmer fire conditions to scout for more containment line opportunities along the north side of the fire.

Currently, the fire is 12,097 acres and 10% contained.

On Wednesday, crews felled trees that had been damaged and extinguished hot spots along the fire's containment lines. The construction of lines along Crooked Creek Road and St. Louis Creek Road is progressing well, according to the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.

Before the fire lines are complete, crews will need to reduce the amount of fuel around the perimeter.

There are no evacuation or pre-evacuation orders in place for this fire.

A Stage 2 fire restriction is in place for Grand County. The fire was caused by humans on Aug. 14.