Pine Gulch Fire explodes to 42,000 acres, Grizzly Creek at 3,200 after two days

PICT Pine Gulch Fire
Published Wednesday, August 12, 2020
PICT - Kiowa County Press Icon
by Chris Sorensen

Two fires burning in Garfield County continued to expand Tuesday, with the Pine Gulch Fire along the Garfield-Mesa county line growing by 12,000 acres to 42,222, and the Grizzly Creek Fire reaching 3,200 acres according to the latest reports.

More than 650 firefighters are battling the Pine Gulch Fire, which started July 31 about 18 miles north of Grand Junction. The fire has been growing to the north and east under hot, dry conditions and wind gusts as high as 30 miles per hour. 

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PICT Air operations at the Pine Gulch Fire August 10, 2020
Air operations at the Pine Gulch Fire August 10, 2020

The fire has been at seven percent containment since Sunday as crews work to build and maintain lines along the southern fire perimeter. Planes and helicopters are also being used to help slow the fire's spread.

The Garfield County Sheriff's Office has issued evacuation orders for residents on County Roads 202, 204, 207, 209 and 211. A road closure in effect on County Road 204 at County Road 202.

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MAP Pine Gulch Fire as of August 11, 2020
Map of the Pine Gulch Fire as of August 11, 2020

The Grizzly Creek Fire east of Glenwood Springs has forced the continuing closure of Interstate 70 from Glenwood Springs to Gypsum. A reopening time has not been announced. Lengthy detours are in place, how heavy traffic on narrower roads could contribute to further delays. Cottonwood Pass Road in Eagle and Garfield counties is also closed.

Evacuations were ordered for the No Name, Lookout Mountain and Coulter Creek communities Tuesday as more than 200 firefighters attempt to stop the fire's spread.

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PICT Pine Gulch Fire in Mesa County north of Grand Junction in August 2020.
Pine Gulch Fire in Mesa County north of Grand Junction in August 2020.

The Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team Blue was set to take command of the Grizzly Creek response Wednesday morning. Team Black is currently managing the Pine Gulch Fire.

A red flag warning for ongoing high fire danger is expected to be in effect from 11:00 a.m. through 8:00 p.m. Wednesday in northwest and west central Colorado. Temperatures are predicted to reach the upper 90s while relative humidity falls below 10 percent.

An air quality health advisory, issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is in effect for Mesa, Garfield, Rio Blanco, Routt and Eagle counties through at least Wednesday morning due to smoke from both fires. CDPHE has been issuing advisories on a daily basis. Moderate to heavy smoke could cause breathing difficulty for people with respiratory illnesses, children, and people who are elderly. Outdoor activity should be limited.

Temporary flight restrictions - which includes drones - are also in place over the fires due to the heavy use of firefighting aircraft to battle the blazes.

Fire danger in the area remains high, and Stage 1 fire restrictions are in place for Mesa and Garfield counties. Stage 1 restrictions are also in effect for Bureau of Land Management land covered by the Grand Junction Field Office.

Fire restrictions are set to move to State 2 Thursday.

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