Colo. wildfires burn as weather forecast calls for high winds, lightening and little precipitation
for The Fence Post
Efforts continue to control raging wildfires in hot, gusty, drought-stricken areas of Colorado. According to meteorologists with the National Weather Service, prolonged drought, low humidity and oppressive heat have created the perfect storm spurring wildfires in at least six Colorado counties.
Despite predictions for much-needed rain over the weekend in these areas, these storms may also carry dangerous lightning and high winds, which could trigger new outbreaks. Meteorologists warn that although precipitation can help put out the flames, it can also trigger dangerous mudslides in fire-ravaged areas.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, eight wildfires burning in the state vary in size from 79 acres to more than 36,000 acres, requiring the services of thousands of firefighters and several support agencies. Current fires are located in La Plata, Montezuma, Eagle, Las Animas, Summit and Jackson counties.
The largest of these blazes is the 416 wildfire, which had burned more than 29,000 acres as of late last week. This fire, which is only considered 15 percent contained, has cost more than $10 million to fight at this point.
The weather conditions and fuels are ideal for significant fire growth, according to the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control. The 416 fire is burning in areas with rough terrain and is mostly inaccessible, according to the agency. “The 416 fire is spurred by fuels created from an abnormally dry period due to prolonged drought,” the site suggests. Live fuels like Gamble Oak and Aspen are also contributing to the fire’s intensity, as well as timber, grass, understay brush and litter.
Nearly 1,056 firefighters continue to battle this blaze, which started 10 miles north of Durango in the San Juan National Forest. Although the fire has burned up into the backyards of some homes, so far firefighters have been able to prevent any structural losses. No firefighter injuries have been reported.
Last week, the U.S. National Forest Service evacuated residents from 163 homes near the fire, as well as residents of 180 homes that had previously been evacuated, but residents were allowed to return. Dry conditions, thunderstorms and gusty winds have expanded evacuations to more than 1,900 homes in the San Juan National Forest, according to a USFS statement. With the remnants of Tropical Storm Bud expected to hit the area over the weekend from the south, residents may have to evacuate if conditions change.
The fire, now located 13 miles north of Durango, has forced officials to close the San Juan National Forest in the Four Corners region where Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona meet. The area is closed to the public for the first time in its 113-year history. The 1.8 million acre forest stretches across nine counties.
The Burro wildfire, which is considered branch 2 of the 416 fire, is located two miles east of the Gold Run Trail Head in the Delores Ranger District in the San Juan National Forest. The Burro fire has burned 2,829 acres as of June 14, and is considered 0 percent contained.
The Bocco wildfire started June 9, two miles north of Wolcott. It has burned 415 acres and is 50 percent contained. The Eagle County fire is currently burning in Horse Mountain, northwest of Wolcott.
HORSE PARK WILDFIRE
The Horse Park wildfire was sparked by lightning on May 26, 15 miles southwest of Norwood. Although the fire is now 90 percent contained, it has burned over 1,221 acres while being spurred by litter, understory brush, Pinion Juniper, Gamble Oak, brush and sage.
Caused by a lightning strike on June 11, the Natty wildfire burned 79 acres near Canon City before being 100 percent contained.
Located two miles west of Silverthorne, the Buffalo wildfire has burned 91 acres, and is 20 percent contained. Heavy timber and dead beetle kill stands have fueled the fire, which is being fought with air tankers, helicopters and ground crews. Areas of wilderness and Mesa Cortina neighborhoods above Twenty Grand Road have been subject to evacuation.
The USFS has also closed the following trails to the public: North Ten Mile, Meadow Creek, Salt Lick, Buffalo Mountain, Lily Pad Lake, Mesa Cortina, Willow Brook and Gore Trail at Red Buffalo Pass.
BADGER CREEK FIRE
More than 11,021 acres have burned in a wildfire in the Medicine Bow National Forest on the Wyoming-Colorado border. The cause of this fire, which started June 10, is still under investigation. The fire started two miles northwest of Mountain Home, Wyo., and has zero containment at this time.
According to the USFS, the main focus has been protecting structures. The fire quickly spread mid-week after high winds drove it into dense vegetation. Evacuation orders have been given for the communities of Fox Park, Mountain Home, Wold Tract, Wyocolo, Gramm, Beehive, Miller Lake, and areas along Highway 10 from Woods Landing to the Colorado state line. In Colorado, Highway 127 is closed from the Colorado 125 Junction to the Wyoming state line.
The fire continues to be fueled by wind gusts up to 35 mph.
For up-to-date information about the wildfires and evacuation orders, see https://colorado.gov/pacific/dfpc/current-wildfires. ❖
— Clark is a freelance livestock journalist from western Nebraska. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.