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Firefighters making good progress at Williams Fork Fire thanks to calmer weather

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Posted at 10:08 AM, Aug 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-22 14:46:41-04

UPDATE (12:45 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 22): Favorable weather conditions continue to help firefighters on the Williams Fork Fire burning southwest of Fraser, which was 10,437 acres and 3% contained as of Saturday morning. Click here to read the latest.

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GRAND COUNTY, Colo. — Weather conditions calmed down enough Thursday and overnight into Friday for firefighters at the Williams Fork Fire to focus on containment lines along the fire's west and southeast areas.

The fire is now burning 10,288 acres and is 3% contained, according to the fire's incident management team.

It grew about 830 acres along the southeast and south sides of the fires.

Fire officials said most of the smoke seen in the area came from burning in the perimeter of the fire.

On Friday, crews will focus on structure protection preparation, improving the fire line in the west and southeast areas, and planning for future operations. Part of protecting the structures includes removing fuels from around those buildings and placing fire hoses, sprinklers and pumps for future use, if needed.

The weather forecasted for Friday and the weekend, combined with beetle-killed trees, will likely spread the fire, the incident management team said.

Officials will hold a fire update on the Williams Fork Fire Facebook page Friday at 5 p.m.

The fire started burning Aug. 19 in the Byers Peak. Officials estimated that it would take up to two months for the fire to be fully contained due to the dry conditions expected to continue in the weeks ahead. The fire was caused by humans.

Fire officials have worked with the Grand County Sheriff's Office on an evacuation plan, if needed, for the towns of Fraser and Winter Park, which are seven miles away. However, no evacuations have been ordered in any residential areas as of Friday at 9 a.m.

The U.S. Forest Service has closed a large area west of Winter Park and Fraser, including roads, trails and campgrounds. All access to the Church Park is closed, including Forest Service Road 133, Forest Service Road 139, County Road 30, County Road 3 (with exemption for mill workers), and County Road 50 starting at Young Life Camp, according to county officials. The Sugarloaf Campground and South Fork Campground were under mandatory evacuation orders when the fire was first reported and have been closed since. County Road 50, County Road 505, County Road 73, Aspen Canyon, Morgan Gulch, and Henderson Mil are under pre-evacuation notice.

To see an evacuation map, click here. Residents in the area can sign up for evacuation notices through the Grand County Code RED program.

Fire officials will hold a public, virtual update on the fire Thursday at 5 p.m. on the Williams Fork Fire Info Facebook page. Viewers are welcome to submit questions in the comments section and officials will respond in real time.

Ed LeBlanc, the Arapaho National Forest Incident Commander, said during a community meeting Aug. 15 that the fire was burning in heavy dead and downed lodgepole pine and spruce fir trees – most killed by beetles.

Drones are not allowed to fly around the fire.

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