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Lowline Fire near Gunnison grows to 1,400 acres as crews work to increase containment

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Chase Woodruff

(Colorado Newsline) More than 400 firefighting personnel are battling the Lowline Fire near Gunnison, federal officials said Tuesday, as the lightning-caused blaze grew to an estimated 1,427 acres in size.

Mandatory evacuation orders for the Mill Creek watershed along County Road 727 in Gunnison County remained in place, county officials said, but pre-evacuation notices for an area to the southeast were lifted. Several other county roads, as well as roads and trails in the Gunnison National Forest and other public lands in the area, also remain closed.

Since the fire was first reported Wednesday, it has spread largely into more grassy areas to the north, where firefighters are confident they can halt further growth towards homes and properties in the Ohio Creek valley, said Lathan Johnson, an operations section chief with the National Interagency Fire Center.

But even with rainy and humid weather conditions over the burn area in recent days, the Lowline Fire is continuing to “burn actively … in areas of heavy timber, bug kill, and dead and downed trees,” officials said in an update Tuesday morning.

“One of the really important things for folks to remember about rain on timber fires is (it doesn’t) put them out,” Johnson said in a briefing. “All the logs are still burning out there, all the heavy (fuels) are still burning out there, so we still have a lot of work to do.”

Officials reported that the fire was just 21% contained, but Johnson said firefighters hope to achieve “a lot more containment” on the fire’s southeastern edge by late Tuesday. No structures have been reported lost or damaged yet as crews continue to prioritize the protection of homes and utility infrastructure.

Officials planned to hold a community meeting for residents impacted by the fire at the Gunnison County Public Library in Gunnison at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. The meeting was scheduled to be livestreamed.

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