Hot, dry conditions over weekend expected to add to major wildfires burning in Western Colorado
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Four major fires continue to burn in Northwest Colorado with weather conditions over the weekend not expected to provide much reprieve.
According to Steamboat Springs-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, owner and operator of snowalarm.com, the next significant chance for precipitation won’t be until next week at the earliest.
“Rain chances become almost nil with continued hot weather through the weekend,” Weissbluth said. “This continues into the next work week before good chances for moisture arrive starting midweek”
The best chance for significant moisture appears around the middle of next week, according to Weissbluth. The eventual remnants of Hurricane Genevieve, located near the southern tip of the Baja peninsula, will merge with the southward-expanding storm complex over the Gulf of Alaska. That will lead to southwest winds that will bring moisture-rich air over the Colorado mountains as early as Tuesday afternoon.
Pine Gulch Fire
According to Steamboat Pilot & Today sister publication Glenwood Springs Post Independent, growth on the Pine Gulch Fire burning north of Grand Junction on the Garfield-Mesa county line was minimal overnight Wednesday, incident command on that fire reported Thursday morning. More accurate mapping also now shows the total fire area to be 121,781 acres, making it the second-largest wildfire in Colorado’s recorded history.
Firefighters have made significant progress on the north and east sides, with total containment now at 14%. Thursday’s main concern was storm cells moving over the fire area from around noon to midnight and producing gusty outflow winds up to 45 mph.
Grizzly Creek Fire
The Grizzly Creek Fire burning in and on either side of Glenwood Canyon in Garfield County has now grown to 28,732 acres, based on aerial mapping on Wednesday. The blaze remains at 4% containment, according to the Thursday morning update from the Great Basin Type 1 incident command team.
Interstate 70 remains closed through Glenwood Canyon, with no estimated time for reopening.
Crews working the Grizzly Creek Fire also provided air and ground support to fight the new Red Canyon Fire that broke out about 6 miles to the south, in the upper Spring Valley area of Garfield County.
The fire triggered new evacuations for residents in the southeast part of the county, just outside the Grizzly Creek evacuation area, which were lifted by Wednesday evening.
Cameron Peak Fire
Members of the Rocky Mountain Incident Command Team reported Wednesday that the Cameron Peak Fire, located in the Roosevelt National Forest, has grown to move than 15,730 acres because of red flag conditions.
The fire is burning in the upper Poudre Canyon, about 25 miles east of Walden. The burn area is about 40 miles, as the crow flies, northwest of Fort Collins.
A cause to the fire is currently unknown, according to the incident command team.
Williams Fork Fire
Driven by strong winds and low humidity, the Williams Fork Fire grew by 2,731 acres to the south and southeast Wednesday.
The fire, which totaled 9,427 acres as of Thursday morning, remains 3% contained on its northwestern flank and is holding west of the Williams Fork River, according to Pilot & Today sister publication Sky-Hi News.
Officials said the focus Thursday would be to hold and contain the south and southeast sides of the fire.
There are no evacuation orders for residential areas in the Fraser Valley. The fire did not grow toward Fraser or Winter Park, remaining 7 miles northeast of the fire at the nearest point. A series of Alpine ridges and peaks lie between the fire and the Fraser Valley.
Wildfires prompt road closures
Current wildfires have resulted in multiple road closures across western Colorado.
Reopening for all routes below will depend on wildfire activity in the coming days. Check cotrip.org for the most current conditions.
The closures include:
• Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon closed between Glenwood Springs and Gypsum due to the Grizzly Creek Fire. The closure began Aug. 10. There is no estimated time of opening.
• Colorado Highway 14 is closed from west of Cameron Pass and Walden for eastbound traffic and at Rustic and County Road 69 for westbound traffic due to the Cameron Peak Wildfire.
• Colorado Highway 139 (Douglas Pass) is closed due to the Pine Gulch Fire. The closure is north of Loma (Fruita/Grand Junction). There is no anticipated time for reopening.
• The Williams Fork Fire in Grand County is burning near U.S. Highway 40 and Colorado Highway 9 but is not impacting state highways at this time.
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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