GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The Pine Gulch Fire grew to 82,838 acres by Monday morning, up from around 74,000 acres Saturday, as firefighters were busy overnight in the southwestern portion of the sprawling fire.
On Saturday afternoon, the fire burned actively in the Garfield Mesa area, on the southwestern side of the fire area, about 15 miles north of Loma.
Large air tankers were frequently used on the fire Saturday, and staffing will be increased near Garfield Mesa on Sunday. Winds with gusts up to 20 mph were expected out of the northeast in the morning before shifting to the northwest in the afternoon.
Fire crews are focusing on the fire’s northern edge on Saturday and were working to establish new containment areas along 204, 207 and 209 roads, officials said. Hand crews are working on lines along Kimball Mountain and near Mud Spring, and structure protection crews were out patrolling and working.
Bulldozers and hand crews are working along the northern line, which has been the most active area in recent days. The Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire Friday morning.
Evacuation orders are in place for residents on Roan Creek Road, Clear Creek Road, Carr Creek Road and Brush Creek Road, as well as for people on CR 202. Road closures are in place on Road Creek Road and North Dry Creek Road.
Temperatures were in the 90s again Saturday with relative humidity between 8% and 10%, with winds of 5-8 miles per hour out of the northwest.
Officials said fire activity picked up in the southwestern portion of the fire Saturday afternoon when the wind shifted and that it was burning “very actively” near Garfield Mesa.
“Firefighters are being supported with air tankers dropping retardant,” fire officials said.
There are 757 personnel working the fire, which was first reported on July 31 about 18 miles north of Grand Junction. The fire was caused by lightning.
There are also air quality alerts in place again Saturday.
The fire is now the fourth-largest in Colorado history.
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. High Park Fire (2012): 87,284 acres
4. Pine Gulch Fire (2020): 82,838 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.
A temporary flight restriction is in place over the Pine Gulch Fire. No drones can fly in the area.