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Pine Gulch and Grizzly Creek fires bear down on Colorado

by Rachel Gabel
for The Fence Post
The Pine Gulch Fire seen from Dry Fork.
Photo by Amy Largent.

Tom Harrington began early, opening gates for cattle to come through, away from the Grizzly Creek Fire burning near Glenwood Canyon in Colorado.

Other ranchers laid down fences and gates, knowing there was little time to gather.

Near DeBeque, Aaron and Amy Largent run pairs on the South Dry Fork where lightning struck on July 31 starting the Pine Gulch Fire. By Sunday, Largent said the fire had crested the hill and dropped into the Dry Fork. On Tuesday, fire crews were able to save the cabins on the ranch, used for hunters. Through working with the fire commander, the Largents were able to move some cattle though the decisions were complicated by the erratic behavior of the fire. Some were left where they were safe, and others were able to be brought down when timing allowed.

The search for pasture is continuing as water is also running low due to the fire efforts. She said conditions on the ranch have been dry following a dry winter. She anticipates it will be several years before they are able to graze their forest permits again. Early weaning of calves may become a reality soon.

Largent said they have had help from neighbors and community members, as well as Hector Castro, who has been working with the family for many years. According to Ginny Harrington with Holy Cross Cattlemen’s Association, Bair Ranch has moved sheep off Flat Tops and the fire has also affected High Lonesome Ranch and the ranch her husband manages, the Crystal River Ranch is also affected by the fires.

Winds, dry conditions, and an abundance of fuel are complicating conditions, according to Mike Walck, the brand supervisor for the Rifle District. He said most ranchers had enough warning to move cattle though there is one rancher he has been in contact with who is still unable to access some areas to determine damage.

“The big bunches of cattle will find places out of harm’s way,” he said. “Right now, it’s a neighbors helping neighbors type thing.”

Cattle producers are working also with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association as they are able to identify needs.

The Grizzly Creek Fire, at Friday’s press time, was mapped at 13,441 acres. According to the incident overview, on Thursday the fire experienced rapid and erratic growth, challenging firefighters and prompting additional evacuations. The combination of dry vegetation, steep terrain, and the Red Flag conditions of hot, dry weather and gusty winds have continued to drive fire growth. On Thursday, the fire grew rapidly to the east towards Bair Ranch and southeast up Devil’s Hole Canyon. This resulted in an increase of acreage from 6,251 to 13,441 acres as of 10 p.m. Thursday when the fire was mapped. Firefighters were successful in keeping the fire held in the bottom of the No Name Drainage.

The Pine Gulch Fire, also as of Friday, is burning 18 miles north of Grand Junction and is currently mapped at 73,381 acres and is only 7 percent containment. It is currently one of the five largest wildfires in Colorado history. ​❖

— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at rgabel@thefencepost.com or (970) 768-0024.


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