UPDATE (1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 2): After several days of rain and cooler temperatures, firefighters working at the four major wildfires in Colorado are preparing for warmer and drier conditions through the weekend, which could increase fire activity. However, containment levels continue to increase and have led officials to lift evacuation and pre-evacuation orders in some areas. Click here for the latest.
DENVER – None of the four major fires burning in Colorado grew in size Monday, but firefighters were able to up the containment on all four of them.
The Grizzly Creek Fire is now 75% contained; the Pine Gulch Fire is 81% contained; the Cameron Peak Fire is 5% contained and the Williams Fork Fire is 10% contained as of noon Tuesday.
Monday also brought rain, and some gusty winds, to several of the fires, which saw lines hold and containment grow with some cooler temperatures as well.
On Tuesday, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R) and Reps. Joe Neguse (D) and Scott Tipton (R) sent a letter to a U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary calling for the agency to approve Emergency Watershed Protection funding to help the areas and watersheds burned during this year’s fires to recover.
“The resulting damage [from the wildfires] could threaten watersheds, private property, and infrastructure for years to come,” the lawmakers wrote. “Mesa, Garfield, Larimer, and Grand County are already in need of EWP assistance. The quick approval of EWP funds to mitigate post-fire flooding and damage in these areas now will pay dividends.”
Colorado received $20.2 million in EWP funds after the 2018 wildfires.
Grizzly Creek Fire
The Grizzly Creek Fire burning just east of Glenwood Springs remained at 32,464 acres as of Tuesday and was 75% contained. Officials said Monday that they had determined the fire was human-caused, but officials are still investigating.
Though strong winds pushed through the area again Monday afternoon, lines held and the wind at lower elevations were not as strong. Officials said that about 60 of the 80 miles of the fire perimeter was now contained.
“A lot of the fire was protected, which is a good thing,” said Incident Meteorologist Nathan Heinert.
Monday night brought two-tenths of an inch of rain over most of the fire – steady enough to help cool the fire’s hot spots but not heavy enough to create flash flooding.
Three hotshot crews were able to connect two hand lines along the southwest edge of Grizzly Creek and hope to connect that line on Tuesday to No Name Creek and further contain that edge of the fire.
Crews will also continue suppression repair along Coffee Pot Road, near Bair Ranch, Red Canyon and No Name.
Coffee Pot Road, Transfer Trail Road, Flat Tops Wilderness roads, and White River National Forest and BLM land remain closed in the area.
There were still 589 personnel working on the fire as of Tuesday morning.
Pine Gulch Fire
The Pine Gulch Fire burning north of Grand Junction remained at 139,007 acres in size as of Tuesday morning, but containment grew to 81% on the largest wildfire in Colorado history.
Fire managers said that mop-up duties and patrols continue Tuesday after some interior hot spot flare-ups on Monday caused by gusty winds and drier conditions, though no containment lines were breached.
There will be a reconnaissance flight Tuesday to check on containment lines created by aircraft dumps in areas that firefighters cannot reach.
Officials said good progress was being made on repairing damage from firefighting and that suppression repair would continue on both sides of the fire to try to return land to pre-fire conditions to the extent possible.
Temperatures are expected to be in the upper 70s Tuesday, with relative humidity in the 25-30% range. But high temperatures are expected to increase as the week goes on as another high pressure system moves into the area.
Roan Creek Road remains closed at North Dry Fork Road. The 21 Road north of the BLM boundary, 16 Road at V 8/10 Road, and the Q 5/10 Road is closed at 18 Rd., officials said.
The fire had 629 personnel working as of Tuesday morning. It was sparked by lightning on July 31, officials have said.
Cameron Peak Fire
A reconnaissance flight Monday found that the western boundary of the fire stopped growing as it reached sparse fuels along a ridgeline.
Crews are confident the western side of the fire is now contained, officials said.
It was good news as the Cameron Peak Fire heading into this week remained the only major Colorado wildfire with no containment.
Crews on Monday continued to build indirect lines to protect communities near Crystal Lakes, Red Feather Lakes and Glacier View.
On Tuesday crews were planning to work west to east along Buckhorn Road, assessing and implementing protection measures. The firefighting efforts were also boosted by overnight rain, which was expected to keep the fire activity minimal Tuesday.
Highway 14 on Tuesday was closed from Rustic to Gould, and heavy fire traffic was expected through the Poudre Canyon. The fire started Aug. 13 around 1:45 p.m. and is located about 15 miles southwest of Red Feather Lakes. Its cause remains under investigation.
Williams Fork Fire
The Williams Fork Fire was at 12,097 acres and 10% contained as of Tuesday morning, officials said.
The fire saw no observed growth in the past 24 hours as cooler temperatures and wet weather persisted over the area.
Fire activity may increase later this week as a high pressure system is forecasted to move into the area later Tuesday bringing warmer and drier conditions.
Crews are taking advantage of the cooler weather and are continuing to focus on installing fire lines west of Fraser and south along St. Louis Creek Road (FS 160).
The Grand County Sheriff has lifted all remaining pre-evacuation orders. No evacuations or pre-evacuation notices are currently in place due to the Williams Fork Fire.
As of Tuesday, 361 crew members were still working the human-caused fire, which began on the afternoon of Aug. 14.