Colorado wildfires: Latest updates on active 2020 fire season

Forecasts, and evacuation and closure information for major wildfires in Colorado

Viewed from Downtown Denver, smoke colors red the evening sun over the Rocky Mountains on Aug. 13, 2020. The smoke came from the Pine Gulch fire near Grand Junction and the Grizzly Creek fire outside Glenwood Springs. (Andy Bosselman for Colorado Newsline)

Six major wildfires have burned an area of more than 430,700 acres (not including the Mullen Fire, which has burned mostly in Wyoming) across Colorado in recent months, causing evacuations, highway closures and potentially hazardous levels of smoke and other forms of air pollution in many parts of the state.

Amid hot, dry weather that has left 100% of the state under an official drought classification for the first time in seven years, the 2020 wildfire season is on track to be among the most active in state history.

Satellite imagery of the smoke plumes from four major Colorado wildfires on Aug. 15. (Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory)
  • The Pine Gulch Fire burned an estimated 139,007 acres in an area north of Grand Junction. It was ignited by a lightning strike on July 31, and is 100% contained.
  • The Grizzly Creek Fire has burned an estimated 32,466 acres along Interstate 70 and the Colorado River east of Glenwood Springs since igniting on Aug. 10. Its cause remains officially undetermined, though officials suspect it was caused by a passing vehicle on the interstate, and the fire is 91% contained.
  • The Cameron Peak Fire has burned an estimated 203,253 acres near Chambers Lake in western Larimer County since igniting on Aug. 13. Officials say the fire is human-caused, and it is 62% contained.
  • The Williams Fork Fire has burned an estimated 14,645 acres near the Williams Fork Reservoir in Grand County since igniting on Aug. 14. Officials say the fire is human-caused, and it is 26% contained.
  • The Middle Fork Fire has burned an estimated 19,938 acres in Routt County north of Steamboat Springs. Officials say it was caused by lightning, and it is 1% contained.
  • The Mullen Fire ignited in Wyoming on Sept. 17 and has spread across the border into Jackson County, Colorado north of Cowdrey. The fire has burned an estimated 176,854 acres, approximately 15,000 acres of which are within Colorado. Its cause is under investigation and it is 69% contained.
  • The East Troublesome Fire has burned 12,655 acres west of Lake Granby since igniting on Oct. 14. Its cause is under investigation and it is 10% contained.
  • The Calwood Fire has burned 8,788 acres in the foothills northwest of Boulder since igniting on Oct. 17. Its cause is unknown and it is 15% contained.

Colorado’s changing climate has increased the risk of dangerous wildfires. Rising concentrations of heat-trapping gases in the earth’s atmosphere — mostly the result of fossil-fuel combustion — have caused many parts of the state, especially on the Western Slope, to warm by an average of more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels. All of Colorado’s 20 largest wildfires on record have occurred since 2002, during a 20-year “hot drought” that scientists say is driven largely by higher temperatures.

In 2017, the Colorado State Forest Service reported that more than 2.9 million Coloradans lived in the “wildland-urban interface” — areas at risk of being impacted by wildfires. Fire safety experts urge residents of such zones to familiarize themselves with the “Ready, Set, Go” system of precautions.

Last updated 8:42 a.m.., Oct. 19, 2020.

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6 hours ago

8:08 pm

‘Unprecedented’ fire conditions prompt national forest closures

By: Newsline staff

The U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday announced closures of vast swaths of national forest lands in response to what federal officials called “unprecedented and historic fire conditions.”

The closures, which take effect a minute after midnight on Oct. 21, are designated in Arapaho and Roosevelt national forests and encompass all national forest land in Clear Creek, Jefferson, Gilpin, Boulder and Larimer counties.

Boulder County in recent days saw the outbreak of the Calwood and Lefthand Canyon fires, and the Cameron Peak Fire — which at more than 205,000 acres is by far Colorado’s largest fire in history — continues to burn north of Estes Park in Larimer County.

“The impacted counties are currently experiencing severe drought; extremely low fuel moisture conditions; a high occurrence of human-caused wildfires; limited capacity for response due to multiple wildfires; and persistent fire-danger weather conditions with no immediate relief in the forecast,” said a Forest Service press release.

Under the closure order, which is meant to support fire suppression efforts and decrease the risk of new fires igniting, only emergency personnel and other authorized people are permitted in the closed areas. The order will remain in effect “until conditions improve and we are confident that the risk of new fire starts has decreased,” Forest Supervisor Monte Williams said in the press release.

Below is a map of the closure area, outlined in purple.

The U.S. Forest Service on Oct. 20, 2020, announced closures, within the purple line, of portions of Arapahoe and Roosevelt national forests due to unprecedented fire conditions. (fs.usda.gov)

 

2 days ago

4:42 pm

East Troublesome Fire continues advance east toward Lake Granby

By: Newsline staff

Fire officials said Sunday they expect the East Troublesome Fire to spread up to a mile and a half farther east toward Colo. 125, in the direction of Lake Granby.
The fire ignited on Oct. 14 north of Hot Sulphur Springs in the area of East Fork Troublesome Creek. By Sunday it had burned 12,655 acres. Its cause is under investigation, and it is 5% contained.

The fire has prompted evacuations in the area as well as the closures of public lands and roads, including Colo. 125. The C Lazy U Ranch, just east of Colo. 125 on the Willow Creek Reservoir, has evacuated guests and livestock.

A view of smoke from the East Troublesome Fire burning north of Hot Sulphur Springs, posted Oct. 15, 2020. (East Troublesome Fire)

2 days ago

3:26 pm

Calwood, Lefthand Canyon fires prompt evacuations of Boulder County mountain communities

By: Newsline staff

Boulder emergency management officials early in the afternoon of Oct. 18 reported that a new fire, the Lefthand Canyon Fire, had ignited near Ward, in the foothills west of Boulder.

The fire prompted mandatory evacuations in a region already subject to evacuations due to the Calwood Fire, which ignited on Oct. 17 and had already burned more than 8,700 acres at the edge of the foothills north of Boulder, just south of Lyons.

Officials ordered evacuations and evacuation warnings for an area generally bounded by the flatlands to the east, Fourmile Creek to the south, Niwot Mountain to the west, and Button Rock Reservoir to the north. See the map below for details.

The evacuation point for the Lefthand Canyon Fire is the Nederland Community Center. Road closures include Lefthand Canyon Drive to the Peak at Peak Highway, Old Depot Road at Peak to Peak Highway, Humboldt Street at Peak to Peak Highway, Lefthand Canyon Drive at Sawmill Road, County Road 100 at Peak to Peak Highway and Gold Lake Road at Peak to Peak Highway.

The Boulder County Emergency Operations Center Public Information line, open until 8 p.m. Sunday, is 303-413-7730.

Last updated:4:13 pm

6 days ago

11:19 am

Cameron Peak becomes largest fire in state history; further growth likely

By: Chase Woodruff

The Cameron Peak Fire in Larimer County grew to at least 164,140 acres on Wednesday, overtaking the Pine Gulch and Hayman fires to become Colorado’s largest wildfire on record — and it likely isn’t done growing yet.

Beginning Tuesday night, wind gusts of up to 60 mph drove the fire nearly 15 miles east towards Horsetooth Reservoir and the city of Fort Collins, and officials reported significant structure loss in newly burned areas along the Buckhorn Creek watershed.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for communities including Glen Haven, Drake and Masonville, and will likely remain in effect for several days, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said in a briefing Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, a spot fire that ignited near the Red Feather Lakes area was under control, and containment lines in the area are expected to hold, officials said.

“It was a bad day, but it could’ve been a lot worse,” Smith said.

A map of the Cameron Peak Fire’s burn area as of Oct. 15, 2020. (Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team)

Amid extreme fire conditions, firefighters are prioritizing structure protection for homes and other buildings in the affected areas, rather than building additional containment lines, fire officials said. While winds have eased slightly, weather conditions are forecasted to continue fueling the growth of the fire in the coming days.

“Things will calm down a little, but we’re expecting almost if not as much activity (Thursday) and on into the next day,” incident commander Dan Dallas said Wednesday night. “We’re not through this wave of activity yet … Expect a couple more days that are hard days.”

7 days ago

12:17 pm

New evacuations ordered as Cameron Peak Fire surges amid high winds

By: Chase Woodruff

The Cameron Peak Fire, which has burned for more than two months in western Larimer County and is already the third-largest wildfire in state history, is growing rapidly again amid extremely high winds in the area, prompting new evacuations just a few miles west of Fort Collins.

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered by Larimer County officials in areas surrounding the North Fork of the Big Thompson River and the Buckhorn Creek watershed, extending from the fire’s eastern edge to communities including Drake and Masonville, directly southwest of Horsetooth Reservoir.

The Cameron Peak Fire has destroyed or damaged at least 99 structures and burned an area of more than 135,000 acres since igniting — likely due to human causes — on Aug. 13.

The fire’s growth was dampened by an early September snowstorm, and it has remained relatively stable in recent weeks, with containment rising to 56%, mostly on its northern perimeter. But persistent drought conditions and the arrival of high winds over the past two days — gusts have reached 60 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service — have fueled its growth again.

“High winds through the night have created extreme fire conditions for firefighters,” fire officials said in an update Wednesday morning. “On the southeast side of the fire near the Colorado State University Mountain Campus, the fire has pushed to the east 5-10 miles. … This will be a rapidly changing situation today as winds will continue to be an issue.”

Smoke from the growing fire is severely impacting air quality along the northern Front Range, with concentrations of particle pollution in Fort Collins reaching “very unhealthy” levels on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index scale Wednesday morning.

“By Wednesday afternoon smoke should disperse in most areas due to good atmospheric mixing, however additional smoke could be produced in the area depending on fire activity,” state health officials wrote in an advisory. “If smoke is thick or becomes thick in your neighborhood you may want to remain indoors. This is especially true for those with heart disease, respiratory illnesses, the very young, and the elderly.”

At an estimated 135,556 acres prior to Wednesday’s growth, the Cameron Peak Fire could be poised to overtake this summer’s Pine Gulch Fire, which burned 139,007 acres in an area north of Grand Junction, as Colorado’s largest wildfire on record.

3 weeks ago

1:11 pm

Cameron Peak Fire damages structures, burns into Shambhala Mountain Center

By: Newsline staff

The Cameron Peak Fire, exhibiting what officials described as “extreme” activity, damaged structures along Manhattan Road in the mountains west of Fort Collins, and crews were conducting damage assessments along Colo. 14 between the Poudre River Fish Hatchery and Rustic, officials reported Sunday. The fire had previously burned other structures, including at least 25 homes.

The fire, at 124,021 acres, is now the third largest wildfire in Colorado history, according to a chart compiled by The Denver Post.

Firefighters battle the Cameron Peak Fire in a photo posted Sept. 26, 2020. (Cameron Peak Fire)

The fire reportedly burned into the Shambhala Mountain Center property, south of Red Feather Lakes. The center’s most prominent structure is the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, said to be one of the foremost works of Buddhist architecture in North America. A written report from fire officials on Sunday said the fire “burned east past the Shambhala Center” and that “crews were able to protect the temple.” In a video report on Facebook, planning operations trainee Cory Carlson said, “The temple, my last report, was it was all good and there was minimal impacts in that area.”

The center’s executive director, Michael Gayner, posted an update on Saturday on the center’s website. “I am writing as I listen to a broadcast of the firefighters talking about their work on the land,” Gaynor wrote. “The fire has reached SMC and the most I can understand is that some structures have survived. The radio exchanges include descriptions of firefighters going to our temple, working with the fire hydrants, and describing the fire having moved to the Scouts Ranch to the east.”

One finger of the fire burned past Bellaire Lake toward the 74E Road. The south side of the fire is burning in the Comanche Reservoir and Long Draw areas but not advancing, according to reports.

Crews anticipate better firefighting conditions Sunday, with cooler temperatures and less wind.

Find resources at larimer.org/cpf. Mobile updates are available by texting the word LCEVAC to 888777.

4 weeks ago

11:40 am

Cameron Peak Fire growth prompts mandatory evacuations

By: Newsline staff

A view of Cameron Peak Fire as posted on Sept. 20, 2020. (Cameron Peak Fire Facebook)

The Cameron Peak Fire in the mountains west of Fort Collins overran a line and grew Sunday.

The fire has now burned 104,157 acres and is 15% contained. It is the fourth largest wildfire in Colorado history.

Fire officials said 35 mph winds, plentiful fuels and steep terrain contributed to the fire’s growth. A “surge force” of 15 engines were expected to arrive today to assist firefighting efforts. The fire had entered what officials described as flatter terrain, giving firefighters an advantage in battling its advance.

Fire activity on Sunday prompted the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office to order mandatory evacuations for Red Feather and Crystal Lakes. The area includes Manhattan Road down to Highway 14 and the Shambhala Mountain Center. Voluntary evacuations were issued for Glacier View filings, the Lady Moon area and the Magic Sky Ranch area.

Find resources at larimer.org/cpf. Mobile updates are available by texting the word LCEVAC to 888777.

1 month ago

9:09 am

Some Cameron Peak Fire evacuation areas downgraded

By: Newsline staff

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office has downgraded the evacuation status of several areas around the Cameron Peak Fire in the mountains west of Fort Collins.

Evacuation status has been downgraded from mandatory to voluntary at Highway 14 from Stove Prairie Landing west to Kelly Flats, and County Road 44H from Pennock Pass to County Road 27. The map below shows mandatory and voluntary evacuation areas around the Cameron Peak Fire.

The fire has burned 102,596 acres and is 8% contained. Recent colder weather and precipitation assisted the work of firefighters, but a return to dry conditions and warm temperatures has boosted fire activity. A Thursday update from fire officials said, “This weekend fire perimeters will once again be tested with a thunderstorm expected to bring gusty erratic winds although an increase in humidity, lower temperatures, and possible rain are expected to prevent spread and diminish fire activity.”

1 month ago

12:38 pm

Cameron Peak Fire has destroyed 25 homes

By: Newsline staff

Fire crews have taken advantage of favorable conditions produced by snowfall last week to construct fire lines and undertake other measures to combat the Cameron Peak Fire in the mountains west of Fort Collins.

A hand crew at the Cameron Peak Fire on Aug. 25, 2020, digs a fire line from a previous burned area to Highway 14.

The fire, at 102,596 acres, is the largest in Larimer County history, according to the Coloradoan, and the fifth-largest in state history. It has destroyed 25 homes and 29 outbuildings, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office reported.

As warm temperatures and low humidity returned to the fire area in recent days, a return of fire activity was noticeable, fire officials said, and hotspots remain. Crews constructed fire lines along Buckhorn Road to Comanche Reservoir, Pingree Park Road and Highway 14. The fire perimeter measures about 237 miles, and the fire is only 4% contained.

Crews anticipate the Tuesday arrival of winds from the northwest.

1 month ago

12:16 pm

Snow halted advance, but Cameron Peak Fire expected to pick up again later this week

By: Newsline staff

The cold front that moved into Colorado in recent days halted the eastward advance of the Cameron Peak Fire, fire officials said Wednesday morning. The fire in the days before the change of weather had exploded in size, and now covers a burn area of 102,596 acres.

The fire area was covered in 8-14 inches of “heavy, wet snow,” a statement posted by fire officials on Facebook said. “Fire activity will be diminished today due to low temperatures and precipitation,” the statement said, calling the new conditions a “much needed relief” that allowed crews to engage in new containment measures.

An aerial view of the Cameron Peak Fire on Aug. 15, 2020. (inciweb.nwcg.gov/Cameron Peak Fire)

But the snow did not put an end to the fire, and officials noted at temperatures are expected to rise again in the coming days.

“As the weather turns warmer and drier, fire activity is expected to pick up again later in the week,” the statement says.

Several Cameron Peak evacuation orders have been downgraded or lifted, but some areas to the north, east and south of the fire remain under mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders.

Find resources at larimer.org/cpf. Mobile updates are available by texting the word LCEVAC to 888777.

1 month ago

9:06 pm

Shambhala Mountain Center located in new Cameron Peak Fire mandatory evacuation zone

By: Newsline staff

Fire officials responding to the exploding Cameron Peak Fire west of Fort Collins issued several new mandatory evacuation orders in the afternoon and evening of Sept. 7.

One of the orders includes an area south of Red Feather Lakes that is the site of the Shambhala Mountain Center. The center’s most prominent structure is the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, said to be one of the foremost works of Buddhist architecture in North America.

The Shambhala Mountain Center is seen in a new Cameron Peak Fire evacuation zone map on Sept. 7, 2020. (nocoalert.org)

Cameron Peak Fire has burned an estimated 96,402 acres. New mandatory evacuations also include the following areas: Lady Moon and Red Feather Highlands; Red Feather and Crystal Lakes; County Road 27 from County Road 44H south to Big Bear Road; County Road 52E (Rist Canyon Road) to include Davis Ranch Road, Whale Rock Road and west to County Road 27E; and Highway 14 from Stove Prairie Landing to Gateway Park.

In a message on the Shambhala Mountain Center website posted Sept. 7, but apparently before the new mandatory evacuation order had been issued, executive director Michael Gayner wrote that the center was then in a voluntary evacuation zone, “with more mandatory evacuation zones having been established nearby.” Gayner noted that rain, snow and cold temperatures were in the forecast.

Gayner added: “If anyone has rain or snow practices, now would be a great time to focus on SMC — we could do with a Rain of Blessings, so to speak …”

Find resources at larimer.org/cpf. Mobile updates are available by texting the word LCEVAC to 888777.

Last updated:9:08 pm

1 month ago

3:14 pm

Evacuations ordered for Rist Canyon Road near Cameron Peak Fire

By: Newsline staff

Fire officials on Sept. 7 ordered mandatory evacuations for all of Rist Canyon Road — County Road 52E — as the Cameron Peak Fire grew.

The fire has burned an area west of Fort Collins of about 60,000 acres since it ignited, likely due to human causes, on Aug. 13.

The evacuation area includes Davis Ranch Road, Whale Rock Road and west to County Road 27E, where there was “immediate and imminent danger,” according the a message from the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.

Find resources at larimer.org/cpf. Mobile updates are available by texting the word LCEVAC to 888777.

Below is a map of alert zones around the Cameron Peak Fire:

1 month ago

7:55 pm

New Cameron Peak Fire voluntary evacuations issued

By: Newsline staff

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office issued an emergency message Sept. 6 after the Cameron Peak Fire in the mountains northwest of Fort Collins grew to 34,289 acres. Fire danger on Sunday had increased due to high temperatures and wind.

The emergency message included new voluntary evacuations for areas along County Road 74E: “County Road 74E east from Red Feather to include the Shambhala Center, Lady Moon, and Glacier View filings up to and including Hewlett Gulch Road, located west of mile marker 10.”

The evacuations were focused on residents who are concerned for their safety, might need extra time to leave, or who have health conditions that could be worsened by fire conditions.

Find resources at larimer.org/cpf. Mobile updates are available by texting the word LCEVAC to 888777.

Last updated:8:16 pm

2 months ago

9:09 am

COVID-19 outbreak reported among Cameron Peak firefighters

By: Chase Woodruff

Two firefighters working on the Cameron Peak Fire in western Larimer County have been hospitalized and two others have been quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19, fire officials said Wednesday.

“Three of those individuals were in an engine company together that was working on a night shift,” Jeff Basamanowicz, COVID-19 coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team, said in a video briefing. “Tuesday night, we had another individual who was evaluated for respiratory complaints and taken to the hospital, where he later tested positive for COVID.”

Colorado health officials confirmed the four positive tests in outbreak data released Wednesday. Across the country, wildland firefighters have confronted a highly active 2020 fire season while adapting operations to minimize the spread of COVID-19, employing a wide variety of measures including health and temperature screenings, social distancing and frequent testing.

The Cameron Peak Fire has burned an estimated 23,037 acres in an area west of the Red Feather Lakes region since it was ignited, likely by human causes, on Aug. 13. It is currently 6% contained. Officials said in a Sept. 2 update that a return of warmer, drier weather could lead to increased fire activity over Labor Day weekend, but with more than 880 personnel currently assigned to the blaze, firefighting operations will continue — along with COVID-19 safety protocols.

“We’re requiring masks with our firefighters, we’re performing social distancing, we’re recommending frequent hand-washing,” Basamanowicz said. “We’re working with public health officials to follow all the recommended CDC guidelines to keep everybody on this fire line safe.”

2 months ago

9:25 am

Pine Gulch Fire becomes largest in Colorado history, nears full containment

By: Chase Woodruff

Official estimates of the Pine Gulch Fire’s burn area have risen to over 139,000 acres, making the blaze just north of Grand Junction the largest recorded wildfire in Colorado history — but officials don’t expect it to grow much further.

Aerial mapping conducted Thursday showed that Pine Gulch had surpassed the 2002 Hayman Fire, which burned 137,760 acres in an area northwest of Colorado Springs, destroying more than 600 structures and causing five firefighter deaths. No fatalities have been reported as a result of the Pine Gulch Fire.

While conditions on the Western Slope remain hot and dry, firefighting officials are confident that they will soon have the blaze under control. Estimated containment of the fire — the percentage of its perimeter around which barriers called “control lines” have been constructed — has risen to 77%. Officials said in an Aug. 27 update that some of the hundreds of personnel assigned to the blaze throughout much of August are being reassigned to higher-priority fires.

A map of the Pine Gulch Fire released on Aug. 28. (Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team)

“The overall focus on the Pine Gulch Fire is quickly shifting from fire suppression to suppression repair,” officials with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team wrote. “Suppression repair involves actions that help minimize damage to soil, water, and other resources directly attributable to fire suppression activities.”

As with other fires burning in rugged mountain terrain across Colorado, fire officials are also concerned about the potential for mudslides and other debris flows in the area scarred by the Pine Gulch Fire — a risk highlighted by a small debris flow caused by a thunderstorm that passed over the eastern half of the fire on Wednesday.

“There was a small amount of debris flow near Kimball Creek Road,” officials said. “More thunderstorms are predicted, and these bring the potential for debris flows and flash flooding.”

2 months ago

10:58 am

I-70 reopens through Glenwood Canyon after two-week shutdown

By: Chase Woodruff

After a closure that lasted nearly two weeks as the Grizzly Creek Fire burned nearby, a 25-mile stretch of Interstate 70 between Glenwood Springs and Gypsum was reopened to traffic Monday morning — but officials are warning drivers that traffic and road conditions along the highway will still be far from normal.

Travelers should expect heavy traffic, reduced speeds and regular detours and closures for repair work as crews work to clean up the battered interstate, which has suffered damage from wildfire flames and rockfalls as the blaze spread through Glenwood Canyon after igniting on Aug. 10.

“While on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon, it is critical for motorists to pay attention to the roadway, and follow signage and traffic guidance through the canyon,” officials with the Colorado Department of Transportation said in an Aug. 24 press release. “Travelers should prepare for intermittent closures on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon that are required for repairs after the Grizzly Creek Fire or if conditions in the canyon require a safety closure.”

A key safety concern in the area impacted by the fire is the potential for dangerous debris flows, which can be triggered when charred soil, sediment and vegetation are swept away by rainfall. CDOT said it’s preparing for emergency closures in the event that any further rockfalls or mudslides threaten the highway.

“Although CDOT has carefully reviewed the hazards affecting I-70 in Glenwood Canyon, the roadway is a changing environment,” department officials said. “Even minimal amounts of rain could trigger mudslides, debris flows or rock slides in the burn area. Showers and thunderstorms are forecast for Glenwood Canyon this week and could prompt a safety closure.”

2 months ago

11:52 am

Polis executive order declares emergency, finds state fire funds ‘insufficient’ for Pine Gulch

By: Newsline staff

Gov. Jared Polis on Saturday declared through an executive order a state of disaster emergency related to the Pine Gulch Fire in Mesa and Garfield counties.

The emergency declaration enables responding agencies to coordinate, and it makes resources available for response and recovery.

Polis on Aug. 2 verbally declared a disaster emergency for the Pine Gulch Fire, which a lightning strike started on July 31.

The Saturday executive order declares that funds in the state’s Emergency Fire Fund and Disaster Emergency Fund are “insufficient” to pay for the state’s response to the Pine Gulch Fire. Polis through the order will transfer $700,000 into the Disaster Emergency Fund from the Controlled Maintenance Trust Fund and earmark $8 million in the Disaster Emergency Fund for the state’s Pine Gulch costs.

The Pine Gulch Fire has burned an estimated 129,715 acres in an area north of Grand Junction. As of Aug. 23 it was 19% contained.

2 months ago

10:44 am

New fire, Lewstone, west of Fort Collins grows to 140 acres

By: Newsline staff

Authorities on the evening of Aug. 22 reported a new fire, known as the Lewstone Fire, in the foothills west of Fort Collins. It started due to an unknown cause just north of Rist Canyon Road and Pine Acres Way.

As of 10 a.m. Sunday the fire had grown to 140 acres and was at 0% containment.

Check nocoalert.org and larimer.org/emergency/emergency-information for updates.

See the map below for mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders for the areas of the Lewstone and Cameron Peak fires. Readers may click the “view larger map” icon and search their address to determine where their property is in relation to the evacuation regions.

2 months ago

11:22 am

Black Hawk helicopter, other National Guard assets activated to help with wildfire response

By: Newsline staff

Gov. Jared Polis activated the Colorado National Guard to help respond to wildfires in the state, the governor’s office announced Friday.

The Guard will help by providing a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and crew on standby at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Training Site in Gypsum; 30 soldiers to perform traffic control and restrict unauthorized travel to the area of the Cameron Peak Fire in Larimer County; and mobile testing and training teams who can perform COVID-19 testing for firefighters, according to the governor’s announcement. Guard planners are also providing support to local emergency operation centers.

The Guard’s assistance comes at the request of the State Emergency Operations Center and wildfire incident commanders, the governor’s office said.

“Whether it’s the fight against COVID or the fight against drought-induced wildfires, Colorado’s National Guard is ready to rise to the challenge to help our communities,” Polis said in the announcement. “We are thankful to the Guardsmen and women for their support during this challenging time.”

2 months ago

12:48 pm

More accurate mapping shows Pine Gulch at 121,781 acres; red flag warning issued

By: Chase Woodruff

After additional mapping, fire officials on Thursday said they had revised their estimate of the Pine Gulch Fire’s size down from 125,108 acres to 121,781 acres — but with more hot, dry weather and windy afternoon thunderstorms in the forecast, it may not be long before their estimates grow again. A red flag warning is in effect for Aug. 20.

“Today’s main concern will be storm cells moving over the fire area from around 12 p.m. to midnight and producing gusty outflow winds up to 45 mph,” officials with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team wrote in an update. “These winds could contribute to extreme fire behavior and active spread with potential for spotting.”

Garfield County issued additional evacuations for residents in the areas directly east of State Highway 139 on Wednesday, after explosive overnight growth saw the fire grow by more than 40% as it spread along its western edge. Residents in the area between State Highway 139 and the Utah border are under pre-evacuation notices.

Maps released by firefighters show the growth of the Pine Gulch Fire between Aug. 18 and Aug. 20. (Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team)

2 months ago

12:42 pm

Forest Service releases new images of Hanging Lake

By: Chase Woodruff

U.S. Forest Service officials on Thursday released additional images of Hanging Lake, a popular hiking destination that had been threatened by the 29,000-acre Grizzly Creek Fire.

The area immediately surrounding Hanging Lake appears to have been largely spared from the Grizzly Creek Fire. (U.S. Forest Service)

Like the images released after a brief flyover by firefighters last week, the new photos show that the area immediately surrounding Hanging Lake and portions of the Hanging Lake Trail remain largely intact, even as the ridges above appear to have been burned. The most active parts of the Grizzly Creek Fire are now to the east of the site, where the blaze continues to spread into Eagle County on both sides of Interstate 70 and the Colorado River.

Forest Service officials say the full extent of the potential damage has yet to be determined. The Hanging Lake Trail and many other parts of the White River National Forest remain closed.

2 months ago

12:38 pm

50-acre brush fire south of Grizzly Creek under control

By: Chase Woodruff

Firefighters in Garfield County were able to quickly suppress a 50-acre blaze that ignited just south of the Grizzly Creek Fire on Wednesday night.

A map showing the location of a small brush fire that ignited south of the Grizzly Creek Fire on Wednesday. (Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team)

The Red Canyon Fire was first spotted just after 4 p.m. about 5 miles south of Interstate 70, where the 29,000-acre Grizzly Creek Fire continues to burn between Glenwood Springs and Gypsum. It prompted additional evacuations in the area and firefighting operations from multiple aircraft assigned to the Grizzly Creek blaze, according to the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center.

Garfield County officials said just before 9 p.m. that the fire had been controlled and evacuations were lifted — though evacuation orders for many residents near the Grizzly Creek Fire remain in effect.

Hot and dry weather continues to raise the risk of wildfires across much of rural Colorado, prompting Gov. Jared Polis this week to issue a statewide fire ban in an effort to prevent new fires from starting.

2 months ago

11:21 am

Pine Gulch Fire explodes to 125,000 acres overnight, new pre-evacuation orders issued

By: Chase Woodruff

The Pine Gulch Fire grew rapidly overnight, expanding its burn area by more than 40% to a total of 125,108 acres, according to the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, a federal wildfire response group.

The new growth makes Pine Gulch the second-largest fire in Colorado history.

Since being ignited by a lightning strike on July 31, the fire has mostly spread to the north and east into the sparsely populated Roan Cliffs area. But windy conditions on Tuesday night caused the fire to grow along its western edge, towards Fruita and other communities west of Grand Junction.

“While things are still looking good on the northern and eastern sides of the fire, strong outflow winds from a thunderstorm cell during the night caused fire growth on the west side,” officials with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team wrote in an Aug. 19 update. “Fire supervisors are currently assessing the situation, and we’ll have more information later this morning.”

Additional pre-evacuation notices have been issued for residents along County Road 205, Kimball Mountain Road and County Road 256, according to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.

2 months ago

4:15 pm

Gov. Polis announces 30-day statewide fire ban

By: Chase Woodruff

Gov. Jared Polis has implemented a temporary statewide fire ban as four major wildfires continue to spread and hot, dry conditions persist across much of Colorado.

“Three of the four fires that we’re currently fighting were likely caused by human activity,” Polis said during an Aug. 18 press conference. “We need to do everything we can to prevent new fires from starting in the first place.”

The 30-day order prohibits campfires, fireworks and other “open sources of ignition.” It doesn’t include barbecue grills, camp stoves and enclosed fire pits, all of which are still allowed.

Polis noted that while nearly all of Colorado’s western counties have already imposed stringent fire restrictions of their own, his statewide order will ensure that the few that don’t — including Chafee, Delta and Ouray counties — will also be protected.

“The statewide measure on fire bans will provide clarity of message,” Polis said. “And since fires are often between counties, and between jurisdictions, this will help reduce all of our risk.”

Polis’s order on Tuesday comes more than four months after local fire chiefs from across Colorado unsuccessfully petitioned the governor to institute a statewide fire ban to reduce the risk of wildfires during the coronavirus pandemic.

2 months ago

3:17 pm

Part of Rocky Mountain National Park closed due to Cameron Peak Fire

By: Chase Woodruff

National Park Service officials on Tuesday announced the closure of much of the northwestern corner of Rocky Mountain National Park due to the Cameron Peak Fire, which continues to spread just a few miles from the park’s boundaries in western Larimer County.

An area of Rocky Mountain National Park will be closed until further notice due to a nearby wildfire. (National Park Service)

“In an abundance of caution, due to forecasted winds and extreme fire conditions, Rocky Mountain National Park is implementing temporary closures in the more remote northwest area of the park,” officials said. “This closure includes wilderness campsites, cross country zones and trail systems.”

Last week, RMNP officials also imposed a complete fire ban in the park until further notice, and the park announced yesterday that the Alpine Visitor Center on Trail Ridge Road was closed “due to air quality issues.”

The area affected by the closure announced Tuesday includes Mummy Pass Trail, Comanche Peak Trail, Mirror Lake Trail, Poudre River Trail, Crater Trail, Colorado River Trail, Red Mountain Trail, Grand Ditch Access, Skeleton Gulch Trail, Thunder Pass Trail and Little Yellowstone Trail.

2 months ago

1:07 pm

Pine Gulch set to become third-largest fire in state history; Grizzly Creek cracks top 20

By: Chase Woodruff

The Pine Gulch Fire is expected to soon become the third-largest wildfire by acreage in Colorado history.

The fire, located north of Grand Junction, grew to an estimated 87,209 acres in size as of Tuesday morning, according to federal fire officials. That’s just shy of the 87,284 acres burned by the High Park Fire in Larimer County in 2012 — and with hot, dry weather persisting over the fire and much of the Western Slope, it won’t be long before Pine Gulch catches up.

“Fire behavior will likely be active and challenging again today as winds continue to align with drainages and burn in areas containing critically dry fuels,” officials with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team wrote in an Aug. 18 update.

Fifty miles to the east, the Grizzly Creek Fire has also grown rapidly since igniting on Aug. 10, and at an estimated 27,000 acres, it too now ranks among the top 20 largest fires in state history, according to a list compiled in 2018 by the Denver Post.

In surpassing the 1879 Lime Creek Fire, which burned an estimated 26,000 acres in what is today the San Juan National Forest, the Grizzly Creek and Pine Gulch have removed Lime Creek from the list of Colorado’s 20 largest fires on record — meaning that all 20 have occurred since 2002.

2 months ago

2:00 pm

130,000 acres burned as hot, dry weather continues

By: Newsline staff

Four major wildfires continued to burn across Colorado on Monday, forcing evacuations and road closures in Mesa, Garfield, Eagle, Grand and Larimer counties and worsening air quality in many parts of the state.

Read the full story.

Last updated:11:45 am

2 months ago

2:00 pm

Gov. Polis visits two Western Slope wildfires as two others ignite, spread rapidly

By: Chase Woodruff

Gov. Jared Polis visited with local officials and firefighting crews at command centers near two wildfires on Colorado’s Western Slope on Friday morning, as two other blazes grew rapidly in Larimer and Grand counties.

Read the full story.

Last updated:11:47 am

2 months ago

4:00 pm

‘Extremely active and fast-moving’: Western Slope wildfires continue to grow

By: Chase Woodruff

A pair of major wildfires on Colorado’s Western Slope have spread rapidly in recent days and are expected to continue to grow on Wednesday amid extremely hot, dry and windy conditions.

Read the full story.

Last updated:11:49 am

2 months ago

12:00 pm

Pine Gulch Fire poised to crack state’s top 10 largest wildfires

By: Chase Woodruff

Two major wildfires burning on the Western Slope have forced evacuations, shut down Colorado’s main east-west interstate and are poised to blanket the Front Range in a thick layer of haze.

Read the full story.

Last updated:11:51 am