UPDATE (2:10 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 3): Firefighters continue to increase containment on the four major wildfires burning in Colorado but are expecting hot temperatures and drier conditions through the weekend. Click here to read the latest.
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.
Firefighting efforts for these four fires have cost the state $77 million, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho.
The Pine Gulch Fire near Grand Junction has cost $28 million, the Grizzly Creek Fire near Glenwood Springs has cost $25.5 million, the Cameron Peak Fire near Fort Collins has cost $16.1 million and the Williams Fork Fire in Grand County has cost $7.5 million.
Here is the latest on these wildfires.
Grizzly Creek Fire
Fire officials said Wednesday morning that for the third day in a row, the Grizzly Creek Fire did not grow in acreage. It has remained 32,464 acres and is now 75% contained. Crews have secured about 58 miles of the 78.5-mile perimeter, according to the incident management team.
At noon on Wednesday, evacuation and pre-evacuation orders on the Grizzly Creek Fire were lifted for all Lookout Mountain, Spring Valley Ranch, High Aspen, Homestead Estates, Coulter Meadows, Bair Ranch and Crystal River Ranch residents. Pre-evacuation orders are still in place for the residents of No Name, mostly due to possible debris flow and flooding.
Firefighters took full advantage of overnight rain — about a quarter inch — which will help firefighters as they work to control two areas of active fire Wednesday.
Firefighters will continue to focus their energy Wednesday on:
- A 9-mile piece of uncontained line in the No Name and Grizzly Creek drainages along the northwest region of the fire, north of Glenwood Springs
- A 10-mile stretch of open line in the Cinnamon and Devil’s Hole drainages on the south end of the fire
In addition, suppression repair is almost complete on dozer lines north of Coffee Pot Road and is ongoing around Bair Ranch and Red Canyon, according to the incident management team.
As containment increases, the number of personnel working on the fire is decreasing. About 567 people remain at the fire.
Road and trail closures remains in place across much of the White River National Forest and on some Bureau of Land Management lands. Alaska IMT Incident Commander Norm McDonald said firefighters have encountered mountain bikers in these closure areas (Coffee Pot Road, Cottonwood Pass and Red Canyon), which creates a dangerous situation for firefighters.
“There are hundreds of miles of trails that remain open to mountain biking outside the closure area,” McDonald said. “Out of respect for firefighter and public safety, we ask mountain bikers to adhere to the closures. The last thing we want is a surprise encounter between a mountain biker and a piece of heavy equipment.”
As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, I-70 is open in the area. All road closures have been lifted except for the Coffee Pot Springs Road.
The fire is burning just east of Glenwood Springs. It sparked Aug. 10 and officials say it was caused by humans.
Pine Gulch Fire
The Pine Gulch Fire — the largest wildfire in Colorado on record — did not grow Tuesday and remains 139,007 acres. It is 81% contained.
All evacuation and pre-evacuation orders have been lifted, according to the Garfield County Sheriff's Office. Road closures remain in effect for:
- Roan Creek Road/County Road 204 at North Dry Fork/County Road 200
- The 21 Road north of the Bureau of Land Management boundary
- 16 Road at V 8/10 Road
- Q 5/10 Road at 18 Road
- Garvey Canyon Road
The BLM reduced its closure area Wednesday, opening up areas to the northwest, west and south of the fire.
According to the incident management team, crews in the southwest region, north of Fruita and Loma, were able to increase and the containment lines Tuesday.
The fire remains active in a section that has stretched farther west. Crews are continuing suppression efforts here. In addition, there's a little bit of uncontained fire along the northwest edge in Division E.
The three divisions along the northeast, east and southeast (K, Z, and A) have combined.
"The fire containment line is really good around everything. We haven't seen any movement along those lines in the last week," said CorDell Taylor with the Southern Area Red Team of those three divisions.
Wednesday will stay mostly sunny with high temperatures and 15-20% humidity. Winds could gust up to 20 mph by the afternoon. Fire officials said they don't expect the fire to grow Wednesday, though the fire will likely continue actively burning inside its perimeter.
Optimal weather for fire activity may move in over the next few days and any sparks that land outside the current perimeter could lead to a quick spread.
The Pine Gulch Fire was first reported on July 31 about 18 miles north of Grand Junction.
Cameron Peak Fire
The Cameron Peak Fire in western Larimer County grew by only 15 acres Tuesday and was 23,037 acres and 6% contained as of Wednesday morning – with most of the containment on the western edge of the fire.
Crews continued structure preparation and completed lines to try to keep homes in the area from burning, and a surge group was brought in to start work on indirect fire lines from Crown Point Road toward the Comanche Peak Wilderness, as well as from Cameron Pass through the Neota Wilderness.
Firefighters are also looking for places to build lines in the Coral Creek area closer to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Fire officials said that winds are expected to increase to 15-25 miles per hour and gust up to 30 mph out of the west on Wednesday afternoon, and fire activity is expected to increase toward the weekend as more dry and warm weather moves back into the state.
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
Drier conditions are expected to move over the Williams Fork Fire after several days of cooler temperatures and rain. The fire, which remains 12,097 acres and 10% contained, isn't expected to become too active Wednesday, according to the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.
On Wednesday, firefighters will continue to construct containment lines west of Fraser along Crooked Creek Road and south along St. Louis Creek Road. So far, work in this area is progressing well, though it will take several more days before these lines are complete, the team reported.
The Portland National Incident Management Team Organization and Type 2 Rocky Mountain Team Blue is managing firefighting efforts.
Fire officials are keeping an eye on the possibility of stronger winds later this week.
The Williams Fork Fire began 15 miles southwest of Fraser and was caused by humans.