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Pine Gulch Fire grows to 87,778 acres; now third-largest wildfire in Colorado history

Pine Gulch Fire grows to 87,209 acres; almost third-largest wildfire in Colorado history
Posted at 9:00 AM, Aug 18, 2020

UPDATE (9:50 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 19): The Pine Gulch Fire grew more than 37,000 acres overnight, according to the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center. It's now 125,108 acres and the second-largest wildfire in Colorado history. Click here for the latest.

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MESA AND GARFIELD COUNTIES, Colo. — The Pine Gulch Fire has grown to nearly 88,000 acres, fire officials announced Tuesday evening. Some evacuation orders have been lifted in the area.

As of 8 p.m., the fire was estimated at 87,778 acres and remains 7% contained, according to the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.

It is the third-largest wildfire in Colorado history.

Pine Gulch Fire_map_Aug 18 2020 8:45 a.m.

Click here for an interactive map of the fire.

Tuesday will likely bring more challenges for fire crews due to 7-9 mph winds pushing the flames toward critically dry spots. The fire is expected to attempt to move both north and south, particularly in the southwest corner, according to the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.

On Monday, firefighters conducted a burning operation in a small area west of the fire to control its northwest spread. The fire was more active than expected and about 100 acres of it crossed over a control line in the Mud Creek area, according to the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.

Crews also improved the indirect fire line that runs north and south on the ridge just west of the fire's edge.

They are continuing to monitor the wildfire each night. The overnight glow from the fire can sometimes be seen from Grand Junction, according to the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.

On Tuesday, crews will look at ways to connect control lines from Roan Creek Road/County Road 204 north to County Road 256.

Firefighters north of the fire will continue to create secondary fire lines.

The control lines on the east side of the fire have been holding well and firefighters in those areas are patrolling and monitoring the fire.

Fire activity is expected to continue Tuesday in the fire's southwest corner, where the terrain is steep and rugged. Because the topography is not safe for ground crews, they are focusing on indirect control line efforts instead to limit the spread in that region.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday evening that a pre-evacuation order was issued for the areas of County Road 205, Kimball Mountain Road and County Road 256 between Kimball Mountain Road and Browns Point after the fire spotted in the northwest corner of the fire area, which grew to 100 acres.

Evacuation orders were lifted for residents along Roan Creek Road/County Road 204 who live below Clear Creek Road. A few residences on side roads off of County Road 204 may not have power until Wednesday. The road is open to residents only to Brush Creek Road/County Road 209. Returning residents will remain on pre-evacuation notice.

Evacuations remain in place for those who live on Roan Creek Road/County Road 204 above Brush Creek Road/County Road 209, as well as Carr Creek Road/County Road 207 and Kimball Creek Road/County Road 202 above the 5.5 mile marker.

To learn more about these evacuations, click here.

Residents will likely see smoke from the west and southwest areas of the fire as it continues to burn fuels, but this is expected, the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team said.

The Pine Gulch Fire was first reported on July 31 about 18 miles north of Grand Junction. It was caused by lightning.

RELATED STORIES: Click here for more Denver7 coverage on the Pine Gulch Fire and other current wildfires

The fire is now the fourth-largest in Colorado history, but is nearing third place.

The state's 10 largest fires in history, ranked by acreage, are:
1. Hayman Fire (2002): 137,760 acres
2. Spring Fire (2018): 108,045 acres
3. Pine Gulch Fire (2020): 87,778 acres
4. High Park Fire (2012): 87,284 acres
5. Missionary Ridge Fire (2002): 72,962 acres
6. 416 Fire (2018): 54,000 acres
7. Bridger Fire (2008): 45,800 acres
8. Last Chance Fire (2012): 45,000 acres
9. Bear Springs/Callie Marie fires (2011): 44,662 acres
10. 117 Fire (2018): 42,795 acres

The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center said the West Fork Complex fire, which burned a total of 109,632 acres in 2013, is not included on this list since it involved three separate fires.

Residents in the affected counties can sign up to receive alerts and new information on the fire here for Garfield County and here for Mesa County.

Click here to learn more about the smoke outlook in Colorado. A temporary flight restriction is in place over the Pine Gulch Fire. No drones can fly in the area.