More than 15,680 acres burning in western part of state
Nine wildfires burned around western Colorado on more than 15,680 acres Sunday, driven by high temperatures, dry wood and wind — prompting federal land managers to deploy aircraft and hundreds of firefighters to try to control flames.
The biggest fires were devouring cheat grass, pinonjuniper forest and sagebrush in northwestern Colorado, mostly in areas overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.
None hurt people. No evacuations were ordered in Colorado. But wildfires raging in California forced hundreds to leave homes. And the heat spurred more than 180 wildfires in western Canada, where authorities on Sunday declared a state of emergency.
“It’s hot and dry,” and wind gusts from multiple directions fanned flames, said BLM fire mitigation specialist Chris Barth, a spokesman for the Colorado interagency team battling the 12,675-acre Peekaboo fire west of Craig.
“This is pretty typical of fire season in Colorado. We see a lot of fire activity in late June and July,” Barth said.
Lightning strikes set off that Peekaboo fire, 44 miles northwest of Maybell, and the 205-acre Wilson fire nine miles north of Meeker.
In a thick patch of forest near Breckenridge, firefighters decided against trudging into steep terrain to snuff remaining flames on an 84-acre area four miles north of the resort. Federal fire managers on Sunday began sending home some of the 406 firefighters assigned to this Peak Two fire, planning to keep a smaller crew this week to contain it, said Dave Schmitt, a former U.S. Forest Service employee serving as spokesman for the interagency team on the fire.
The fire managers deemed it mostly contained, meaning firefighters had cleared a line around the fire sufficient to stop it from spreading if wind intensifies and kicks up flames.
Flames still were visible in “steep, rocky, heavy-fuel areas. It’s not safe to put people into that,” Schmitt said. “That part of the fire will just have to burn itself out.”
A 974-acre Gutzler fire 13 miles southwest of Kremmling was burning Sunday evening in the White River National Forest, engulfing dead trees and fallen trees, surrounded by steep, rocky terrain. Houses have been built in the area but weren’t threatened, according to bulletins posted by firefighters, and authorities had not ordered evacuations. More than 100 firefighters were deployed there.
In southwestern Colorado, a lightning-sparked wildfire 10 miles northeast of Dove Creek spread across 689 acres of BLM and U.S. Forest Service land in areas containing cultural relics. Ponderosa and pinon pines and oaks fueled flames on this East Rim fire. About 72 firefighters surrounded it, planning to monitor flames and contain the fire along a Forest Service road.