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Colorado: West Fork Fire now over 100,000 acres

The West Fork/Windy Pass wildfire footprint as of July 4, 2013.

The West Fork/Windy Pass wildfire footprint as of July 4, 2013.

West Fork Fire is now second-largest in Colorado history, after the 2002 Hayman Fire

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Feeding on more beetle-killed spruce trees, the West Fork Fire grew by more than 10,000 acres in the past 24 hours and became only the second wildfire in Colorado to burn across a footprint of more than 100,000 acres.

The largest recorded fire in Colorado was the 2002 Hayman Fire, which spread across more than 137,000 acres before it was extinguished. The third-largest fire was last summer’s High Park Fire.

The West Fork Fire Complex, burning the San Juans of southwest Colorado, is now about 20 percent contained, and firefighters have been able to create defensive lines near some of the developed facilities in the area, including Wolf Creek Ski Area. Rugged terrain and the abundance of beetle-killed trees have prevented firefighters from making a direct attack on the fire in many areas.

Progress toward containment has been made where there is minimal risk to firefighters, enabling direct attacks and establishment of secure fire lines.

All but one of Colorado’s 15 largest wildfires have burned in the past 10 years, lending support to the idea that climate change is now a significant factor in the wildfire equation, as warmer temperatures drive drought and beetle kill. Decades of fire suppression most likely set the state for the infernos of the past 10 years.

For more details on the West Fork Fire Complex, visit www.InciWeb.org.

The wildfire outlook for the rest of the summer from the National Interagency Fire Center:

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Colorado: Fire danger creeps up in the high country

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The fire danger is currently rated as high in most of Colorado’s north-central mountains.

BLM lands in NW Colorado already under Stage 1 fire restrictions

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After a bone-dry June, some public land managers in Colorado are starting to enact fire restrictions to lessen the chances of a human-caused wildfire start.

Summit County only picked up about 15 percent of the long-term average precipitation in June, for example with .19 inches at the official National Weather Service site in Dillon, compared to the average 1.14 inches. High temperatures for the month were about 4 degrees above average.

The White River National Forest (Eagle and Summit counties) hasn’t issued any restrictions yet, but lands administered by Bureau of Land Management in  parts of northwest Colorado have been under Stage 1 restrictions since June 27. Continue reading

Colorado: West Fork Fire grows to 90,000 acres

Smoke impacts extend to Pagosa Springs

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By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The West Fork Fire Complex grew to more than 90,000 acres late in the week, as shifting winds drove the flames in new directions and sent a thick layer of smoke down the San Juan River Valley, where an inversion kept the smoke hanging low over the town of Pagosa Springs.

Firefighters say they’ve achieved about 2 percent containment with a series of dozer lines that may help prevent the fire from escaping in unwanted directions on some fronts. More than 1,500 firefighters and 20 aircraft are involved in the efforts to suppress and control the fire.

In one area around Trout Creek, the fire advanced four miles in less than two hours, according to the most recent report posted at InciWeb.org. Firefighters were able to do a successful burnout to protect cabins in the area. Continue reading

Federal wildfire budgets need a makeover

Congress makes bipartisan push to reform funding for prevention

The East Peak Fire burns in late June, 2013 in the Spanish Peaks area. Photo courtesy Inciweb.org/Don Degman.

The East Peak Fire burns in late June, 2013 in the Spanish Peaks area. Photo courtesy Inciweb.org/Don Degman.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators says the Forest Service must find a better to allocate funds for firefighting. Cutting money for wildfire prevention leads to spiraling costs for firefighting and ultimately increases the size of fires, the senators wrote in a June 28 letter to cabinet members.

The letter requests the administration to create an action plan to fully fund prevention efforts such as hazardous fuels reduction, in addition to fire suppression efforts. Currently, the administration takes funds from other non-fire programs to pay for fire suppression costs – a practice called fire borrowing. Continue reading

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.

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