GRAND COUNTY, Colo. — Thunderstorms brought wind and little rain to the Williams Fork Fire on Wednesday, and the blaze grew by 2,731 acres, bringing its total burn area to 9,457 acres as of Thursday morning.
Fire officials said it spread south and southeast, and is 3% contained along its northwestern flank. In addition, the fire is holding well west of Williams Fork River, the incident management team said Thursday morning.
The team said they are hoping for favorable weather, particularly rain, which would help firefighters strengthen and increase their containment lines. The opposite — warm, dry and windy weather — could lead to more spread.
On Thursday, fire crews will focus on holding the south and southeast sides of the fire, where it spread the most Wednesday.
A Red Flag Warning is in effect for the area due to thunderstorms (though little rain), gusty winds, high temperatures and overall dry conditions. Gov. Jared Polis has enacted a statewide ban on open burning due to these conditions and the multiple fires in the state.
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 Thursday at 8 a.m. The incident management team said the fire did not grow in the direction of those communities on Wednesday.
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.
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.
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.
Ed LeBlanc, the Arapaho National Forest Incident Commander, said during a community meeting Saturday 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.