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Colorado boosts funding for early wildfire response

From flood to flames: Western Colorado under Red Flag warning; wildfire danger highest in far west and Southwest


Wildfire potential for July 2014 courtesy NIFC.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It doesn’t take long to go from floods to fire in Colorado. Even with mountain streams still running high with runoff, weather experts say the fire danger is on the rise as June turns warm and windy. About a third of the state (mostly western Colorado) is under a Red Flag warning going into the weekend, with the National Weather Service warning that warm temps, low humidity and gusty winds will combine to raise the risk of wildfires.

Overall, the fire season outlook for Colorado is not as critical as the past few years, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, which is emphasizing the current fire danger in the far west and the Southwest, including big parts of Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Continue reading

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Idaho wildfire smoke moves over Colorado

Approaching cold front may clear the air

Smoke from large forest fires in Idaho may linger across parts of northern Colorado and even pool at some lower elevations to create a potential health risk. Satellite image courtesy National Weather Service.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Idaho is experiencing a firestorm similar to conditions seen earlier this summer in Colorado. This week, several major fires in Idaho blew up to massive size under dry, windy conditions, and the smoke from those fires is working its way into Colorado skies under a northwest flow.

A full listing of the active Idaho fires is online at the InciWeb.org website.

Extreme fire behavior was reported Tuesday at the 47,000-acre Trinity Fire, where homes are threatened and evacuations are in effect. The Trinity Fire was also creating its own weather with the formation of pyrocummulus clouds.

Summit Voice reader Don Sather captured this image of the sun rising through smokey skies above Grays and Torreys this morning.

Waldo Canyon Fire 55 percent contained

A smoke column from the Waldo Canyon Fire on June 26. Photo courtesy Adam Drake/InciWeb.org.

Some residents able to visit their neighborhoods to survey damage; Highway 24 re-opens

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Firefighters say they’ve been able to more than halfway contain the deadly Waldo Canyon Fire, a blaze that will go down in history as Colorado’s single most destructive wildfire.

The fire started June 23, three miles west of Colorado Springs. Three days later, it exploded eastward toward the city, killing two people, destroying 346 homes and requiring the evacuation of 32,000 people.

By Sunday afternoon, incident commander Rich Harvey said the 17,827-acre fire was 55 percent contained and announced the re-opening of Highway 24, a major transportation route into the central mountains. Continue reading

Feds on high alert for July 4th wildfires

Forest Service, BLM to step up enforcement of fireworks ban

A June, 2011 wildfire in Keystone Gulch burned within a few hundred feet of vacation homes and full-time residences at the Colorado resort. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal land managers will step up enforcement of a personal fireworks ban in the West (covering Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming) and increase patrols and enforcement.

Orders from the top also say that land managers must coordinate across the West to reduce the rist of new fires and to prepare for an efficient response if they do start. And, as a no-brainer, the memo prohibits any prescribed burns while dangerous wildfire conditions prevail. Continue reading

West: Recent wildfires started by hot cars, dry grass

Utah, South Dakota fires sparked by parked vehicles

Smoke from the Fontenelle Fire in Wyoming casts an eerie sunset glow. Photo courtesy Kyle Ford/InciWeb.org.

Wildfires are burning across the West.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Showing just how bad the fire danger is right now, a couple of the most recent wildfires in the West — in Utah and South Dakota — were started by vehicles parking on dry grass at the edge of a road.

The White Draw fire in South Dakota started Friday near Edgemont when an RV pulled onto the side of the road. According to InciWeb.org, the fire started in dry grass and quickly spread to more than 100 acres. By Saturday afternoon the fire was reported as an active fire that had grown to nearly 2,000 acres burning in grass and timber on private and national forest lands.

Even with a few showers in the area, the fire continued to grow. Currently, Federal, State, local and federal firefighters are working to suppress the fire with help from a single engine tanker plane.

About the same time Friday in Herriman, Utah, the Rosecrest Fire also started when a vehicle parked over dry grass. The 669-acre fire has destroyed three homes. About 1,000 residents of the area are still under evacuation.

There are reports of additional property damage that are being evaluated Saturday. The fire is burning in dry oak brush and grass with some junipers.

The American Red Cross has opened a shelter at Herriman High school, and shelters for both large and household animals are also available.

Track wildfire updates at InciWeb.org.


Colorado: High Park Fire 75 percent contained

Some firefighting resources will be re-assigned to other fires

June 27 High Park Fire map.

June 27 High Park Fire map.

Forest burned by the High Park Fire.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Even as a fire storm engulfed quiet suburban neighborhoods in Colorado Springs, firefighters at the 87,000-acre High Park Fire made gains, announcing late Wednesday that they consider the fire 75 percent contained.

Regional firefighting managers said they may soon be able to re-allocate some firefighting resources to other fires, welcome news as firefighters and equipment are stretched thin across the state.

While individual incident commanders say that they have been getting all the resources they request, regional fire officials acknowledge that, with multiple large fires, the commanders are in effect competing for resources, even as reinforcements arrive from around the country.

“We are going to help those folks out,”  High Park incident commander Beth Lund said, adding that the High Park fire will retain more than enough resources to meet challenges the fire may offer.

A forest no more.

Continue reading

Large new wildfires burning in Utah

A smoke plume towers over the 39,000-acre Wood Hollow Fire in Utah. Photo courtesy InciWeb.org.

Modified DC 10 used as heavy air tanker in aerial firefighting efforts

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A massive new human-caused wildfire burning southeast of Provo, Utah, has destroyed numerous structures, with several nearby communities under evacuation orders.

The Wood Hollow Fire is reported as 15 percent contained, at almost 40,000 acres. The exact cause of ignition is still under investigation. The fire is burning in a mix of Timber grass and and brush, as well as pinyon, Juniper, Cheat rass, sage,  and mixed oak.

According to InciWeb.org, almos 400 firefighters are on scene working to contain the blaze.

Farther east, the Church Camp Fire grew to 1,000 acres, threatening  Cabins, trailers, power lines, major transmission power lines, outbuildings and historic log cabins. In all, about 83 structures are at risk.  Continue reading

Utah’s Dump Fire likely sparked by careless shooters

Two western fires attributed to gunfire

The Dump Fire in Utah may have been started by recreational shooting.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A Utah wildfire that was likely started by recreational shooters has raced through more than 4,00o acres of grass, brush and timber near Saratoga Springs, resulting in the evacuation of more than a 1,000 residents. according to InciWeb.org.

The Dump Fire also threatens a dynamite manufacturing plant in the area. Officials have cordoned off an area about one to two miles around the plant to try and mitigate harm.

The fire is burning south of Salt Lake City and west of Provo, near the east shore of Utah Lake. Continue reading

10,000 acre Nevada wildfire started as a prescribed burn

North Schell fire 15 percent contained

The North Schell Fire perimter map, courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

The North Schell Fire in Nevada. Photo courtesy BLM.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — One of the biggest new wildfires burning in the West started as a prescribed burn that escaped control during one of the driest seasons on record in the Great Basin.

The North Schell Fire in Nevada has burned across more than 10,000 acres and is estimated at 15 percent containment. It’s burning in the North Schell Range, not far from Ely, in eastern Nevada.

Fuels include white fir, mountain mahogany, piñon-pine, juniper, and sagebrush. The fire is making occasional runs, along with spotting and torching in extremely difficult terrain. More than 200 firefighters are on scene with more resources arriving.

Fire officials said there is extreme potential for the fire to grow, with temperatures in the high 70s and 80s and relative humidity in the single digits.

Wildfires taking a toll around the West

Whitewater-Baldy Fire photo

Nighttime burnout operations at the massive Whitewater-Baldy Fire complex in New Mexico.

Wildfire season totals still below average to date, at 995,000 acres

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — While media attention and firefighting resources have been focused on the High Park Fire, burning near the densely populated Colorado Front Range, the wildfire season is heating up elsewhere around the country.

The Little Bear Fire in New Mexico, burning on the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico, is among the most destructive, having destroyed 224 homes and cabins.

The National Interagency Fire Center reported four new large fires Tuesday (June 12) for a total of 19 large fires burning around the country. To-date, the acreage affected by wildfires still remains about 50 percent below the 10-year average, with the NIFC reported a total of 995,000 acres burned so far this year. The average for the year to-date is 1.5 million acres. Continue reading


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