Colorado: East Peak Fire partially contained, West Fork Complex still burning unchecked

Firefighters focused on structure protection

A NASA satellite image shows the size of the smoke plumes blowing off the West Fork Fire Complex in southwest Colorado.

A NASA satellite image shows the size of the smoke plumes blowing off the West Fork Fire Complex in southwest Colorado. Visit this NASA website for more.

A view of the East Peak Fire. Photo courtesy Don Degman and InciWeb.org.

A view of the East Peak Fire. Photo courtesy Don Degman and InciWeb.org.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A slight let-up in the intense fire-weather conditions in southern Colorado enabled firefighters to gain a solid foothold against the East Peak Fire, where officials Monday evening reported 50 percent containment of the blaze on the eastern flank of the Spanish Peaks, above Walsenburg.

The huge West Fork Complex, which has spread across a 75,000-acre footprint around the Wolf Creek Pass area, is still burning more or less unchecked. During a briefing Friday, incident commanders said the fire is likely to continue until there is a significant shift in the weather. Continue reading

Morning photo: Brilliance

Colors are popping in every way …

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A crazy blood moon over Summit County Sunday evening, as smoke from distant wildfires tinted the sky. I didn’t think the old Canon 300 mm zoom would be able to pick up this much detail in the darkness, but that full moon was pretty bright!

FRISCO —At about 10 p.m. last night, my teenager came out of his bedroom and asked, “Anybody know why the moon is bright orange?” We had noticed the wildfire haze earlier in the evening, but the sky was overcast at moonrise, so it wasn’t until the moon was pretty high that the unusual tint was visible, but what a sight. By Monday morning, most of the smoke had dispersed, but enough lingered to add just a touch of texture to the sky over the Rocky Mountains. Here’s what it looked like. Check our online FineArt America gallery for print quality landscape shots of Summit County, Colorado. Continue reading

Firefighters quell small fire near Breckenridge

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Fire danger is rising in Summit County, Colorado.

Fireworks suspected as cause

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Firefighters in Breckenridge, Colorado Sunday morning quickly quelled a small wildfire burning near a residential neighborhood in French Gulch.

A resident of the area reported the fire at about 7:30 a.m. on the hillside between Magnum Bonum Drive and Royal Tiger Road. Firefighters were able to establish a containment line around the small fire.

The exact cause is unknown but  Red, White & Blue Fire Chief Jim Keating said fireworks may been involved after getting reports of fireworks in the area Saturday night.

“At this time we we are working to determine if illegal fireworks or improperly discarded smoking materials are the cause of the fire,” Keating said. “We are working with local law enforcement to have a zero tolerance policy on illegal fireworks.”

The fire danger increased from moderate to high over the weekend in Summit County.

Southern Colorado wildfires spread across 80,000 acres

More red flag fire weather expected Sunday

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Wildfires are burning across Southern Colorado.

The West Fork Fire complex viewed from along the Old Spanish Trail. Photo courtesy InciWeb.org.

The West Fork Fire complex viewed from along the Old Spanish Trail. Photo courtesy InciWeb.org.

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 Fire Complex, burning northeast of Pagosa Springs, has grown to more than 70,000 acres, according to an Inciweb.org update posted Sunday morning:

“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.” Continue reading

Colorado: West Fork Fire complex grows to 53,000 acres

Aerial attack moderates fire, ground crews focus on protecting homes

FRISCO — Growing to more than 50,000 acres, the West Fork Fire Complex has darkened skies around southwestern Colorado and continues to threaten the small town of South Fork, in the San Juan foothills. Emergency contact information is consolidated on this InciWeb.org web page.

Firefighters described the fire’s behavior as almost unprecedented late in the week, as the flames raced for miles through beetle-killed spruce forests mixed with live trees dessicated by persistent drought.

Firefighters are having a hard time finding a place to make a direct attack because of the extremely rugged terrain and dangerous forest conditions, but a concerted aerial attack did help moderate the fire on its eastern flank, according to a Saturday afternoon update on InciWeb.org. Continue reading

Multiple wildfires burning in Colorado

West Fork complex closes Highway 160, spurs evacuations

The Lime Gulch Fire burning in live trees near Conifer, Colorado. Photo courtesy Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

The Lime Gulch Fire burning in live trees near Conifer, Colorado. Photo courtesy Jefferson County Sheriffs Office.

A helicopter drops water on the Lime Gulch Fire. Photo courtesy InciWeb.org.

A helicopter drops water on the Lime Gulch Fire. Photo courtesy InciWeb.org.

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. Continue reading

More wildfires burning in Colorado

Evacuations in effect forLime Gulch Fire

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The West Fork Fire complex has grown to more than 600 acres in the rugged San Juan backcountry of southwest Colorado. Photo courtesy InciWeb.org.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With several new wildfires burning in Colorado and red flag warnings in effect for much of the state, Summit County officials have put a temporary hold on slash burning permits.

“We all have seen the tragic consequences of wildfires yet again in our state, and we want to do everything we can to prevent an out-of-control blaze here in Summit County,” said Lake Dillon Fire Chief Dave Parmley. “This is a worthwhile precaution, especially as we have three teams of firefighters out of the county on the Black Forest fire, as well as two other wildfire leaders assigned to other blazes.”

The Black Forest Fire may be in a mop-up phase, but the Lime Gulch Fire near Conifer and Evergreen is still growing. The Jefferson County fire was initially called the Chair Rock Fire but officials changed the name about about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

The Jefferson County Emergency Blog has been activated to support the Chair Rock Fire, burning in the area of Foxton Road and River Road near Conifer, Colorado.

A level three evacuation (leave now) has been issued for the areas within a three-mile radius of the Foxton Road and River Road intersection. According to the JeffCo emergency blog, 410 phones were called within this evacuation area.  Deputies are in the area going door to door to assist with the evacuations. Continue reading

Colorado: Grants available for wildfire mitigation

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Flames tower over a stand of piñon trees during the Royal Gorge fire near Cañon City.

New state program aims to reduce the risk of fire in wildland-urban interface

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — State officials say they’re ready to start taking applications for a new $9.8 million grant program aimed at reducing wildfire risks to neighborhoods built in and near flammable forests, where wildfire is a natural part of the ecosystem.

The new program was created by Senate Bill 13-269 and passed this year by the Colorado General Assembly. It focuses on projects that reduce the risk for damage to property, infrastructure, and water supplies, and that limit the likelihood of wildfires spreading into populated areas. Funds will be directed to non-federal lands within Colorado.

Eligible applicants include community groups, local governments, utilities, state agencies and non-profit groups. Applicants must contribute 100 percent matching funds, which can include in-kind resources, for a 50-50 grant-to-match ratio. Applicants must also identify plans to make use of the woody material resulting from the projects. Those plans can include using the materials for biomass energy and/or traditional forest products. Continue reading

Firefighters make progress against Colorado wildfires

Red flag fire warnings persist in western Colorado

A NASA satellite image shows smoke from the Black Forest Fire.

A NASA satellite image shows smoke from the Black Forest Fire.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Firefighters in Colorado gained ground on a handful of wildfires Friday. By the end of the day, the deadly and destructive 15,000-acre Black Forest Fire was 30 percent contained. The Royal Gorge Fire was reported as 65 percent contained after burning across a footprint of about 3,200 acres of sagebrush and in pinon forests, including stands of trees killed by ips beetles.

New fires are also burning in western Colorado, where red flag fire warnings are in effect starting 12 p.m. Saturday (June 15). Gusty winds, warm temperatures and low humidity will create challenges for firefighters in the area, including at the lightning-sparked Ward Gulch Fire, where Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue deputy chief Jeff Berino is the incident commander.

At the Black Forest Fire, officials said rain helped firefighters establish some control of the flames — to the point that the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office was able to lift some evacuation orders. Continue reading

Colorado: Black Forest fire destroys 360 homes

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Fire danger remains high across much of Colorado.

No containment yet, as winds and fuel continue to vex firefighters

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The Black Forest Fire has spread across about 15,000 acres and destroyed 360 homes, making it the most destructive wildfire in Colorado on record in terms of property damage. More information on all Colorado wildfires at http://www.coemergency.com/.

Wind and fuel conditions are the big wild cards as firefighters try to gain some measure of containment, said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, describing how the fire has been smoldering in a thick layer of pine needles and cones, then flaring to 30-foot flames when the winds pick up.

There were areas where things look pretty well calmed down, then you have a gust of wind and your’re back to a raging fire … The wind is probably the number-one game changer,” Maketa said.

Officials still don’t have any idea how the fire started, but Maketa said arson investigators were sifting through ashes near where the fire was first reported until the fire once again flared up in that area.

Maketa said there hasn’t been much discussion of containment — and that there won’t be, until a fire line is established somewhere along the perimeter and holds for 24 hours.

The evacuation order at the fire now covers 94,000 acres, 13,000 homes and 38,000 people, Maketa said.

 

 

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