More than 15,680 acres burn­ing in western part of state

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Bruce Fin­ley

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.

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