More red flag fire weather expected Sunday
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Wildfires in drought-stricken southern Colorado have burned more than 80,000 acres in the past week and are starting to reach the scale of “megafires” seen in New Mexico and Arizona the last few years.
Extended drought set the stage for the West Fork Complex Fire and the East Peak Fire in more ways than one: Vast stands of spruce forests at the higher elevations of the San Juans were killed by insects recently, while warm temperatures and lack of precipitation led to tinder-dry fuels, from the forest floor up to the crowns of trees.
“The West Fork Complex consists of three wildfires, West Fork, Windy Pass, and Papoose. All fires are burning in steep, rugged terrain with large amounts of beetle-killed spruce which makes it difficult and unsafe for firefighters to mount a direct attack.”
The flames flared Saturday at the West Fork portion of the fire, south of the Continental Divide, running up Sheep Mountain, close to Highway 160, where firefighters will try to catch any spot fires along the highway corridor and to protect private land and structures off of the West Fork Road around Borns Lake.
The Windy Pass section of the fire has been somewhat contained to an area with less dense vegetation, but could move into thicker forest to the east and west. So far, firefighters have been able to keep the flames away from Wolf Creek ski area.
The East Peak Fire, near Walsenburg, has grown to more than 12,000 acres but firefighters have been able to achieve 10 percent containment and will continue to ty and connect fire lines. The Spanish Peaks Wilderness Area remains closed due to the fire.