West Fork complex closes Highway 160, spurs evacuations
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — The West Fork Complex in the San Juan mountains has quickly grown to become Colorado’s largest wildfire of the season. In just a few days, the two fires near Wolf Creek Pass have spread across about 18,000 acres, burning in rugged backcountry territory choked with beetle-killed spruce trees.
Firefighters have been focusing on trying to protect developments potentially in the path of the fire, including Wolf Creek Ski Area and residential areas around South Fork.
Much of the state is expected to remain under red flag fire warnings for the next few days, with on and off gusty southwest winds and dry conditions keeping the fire danger high. The San Juan Mountains were hit hard by drought and a spreading spruce beetle infestation has left huge swaths of the landscape covered with dead trees.
The fires in the West Fork Complex have showed extreme fire behavior the past few days, with 100-foot flames and spot fires starting up to three-quarters of a mile beyond the main fire front. Evacuations have been ordered in the area.
Along the Front Range, the early attack on the Lime Gulch Fire seems to have helped prevent the fire from growing to massive size — at least for now. As of late Thursday evening, the size of the fire was reported at about 600 acres.
According to InciWeb.org, the fire started earlier in the week from a lightning strike. Firefighting efforts have been focused on trying to establish containment lines around the fire,and keeping the fire south of the North Fork South Platte River and west of the South Platte River.
The Jefferson County Sheriffs Office has issued a Level 3 evacuation notice for an area within a three mile radius of Cathedral Spires. Level 1 evacuations were issued for residents in a one mile radius of the intersection of South Pleasant Park Road and Kuehster Road, as well as residents in a one mile radius of Spring Creek Ranch. A total of 410 land line phones were in the Level 3 evacuation area, and an additional 859 land lines were in the Level 1 evacuation area.
More information on the rest of the fires burning in Colorado is online at this InciWeb.org web page.