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Pine Gulch Fire is about 2,000 acres short of becoming largest wildfire on record in Colorado

On last count, fire was 135,920 acres
Pine Gulch Fire is about 2,000 acres short of becoming largest wildfire on record in Colorado
Posted at 3:21 PM, Aug 26, 2020

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — The Pine Gulch Fire is only about 2,000 acres smaller than the largest wildfire in Colorado history. While it's still spreading, firefighters are making good progress on its containment, which now sits at 47%.

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team reported Wednesday morning that the fire was 135,920 acres. It grew about 1,000 acres from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning.

Winds from thunderstorms did not significantly impact the fire's growth on Tuesday, according to the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.

Monday's operations on the northwest side of the fire were "highly successful" and the fire backed down, allowing crews to work near the fire's edge, the team said.

On Wednesday and the following days, crews in this area will lay down control lines along the fire's edge around East Salt Creek, which will help the fire from spreading north. Meanwhile, other firefighters in this northwestern division will work on secondary control lines and removing heavy fuels.

This kind of preparation work is already completed to the east, in Division L, which is working just north of Division K. Crews in Division K reported that their control lines are holding well. This is one of the areas where the fire is mostly contained, so firefighters will begin moving unneeded equipment from the area. The same is being done along the fire's eastern and southeastern edge, where containment is also high.

Pine Gulch Fire map_Aug 26

The incident management team reported a small amount of fire growth to the south, but said it is not threatening the control line.

The western side of the fire remained relatively quiet on Tuesday.

The fire is still creating smoke plumes, but the incident management team said that's mostly from pockets of unburned fuel within the perimeter of the fire.

Wednesday could bring rain to the area — the team said there's a 15% chance of precipitation — but temperatures will stay in the 90s. Light winds are expected between 6 and 9 mph. Storms may move in between noon and midnight, and could bring winds up to 25 mph.

This has the possibility of increasing the size of the Pine Gulch Fire.

The state's 10 largest fires in history, ranked by acreage, are:
1. Hayman Fire (2002): 137,760 acres
2. Pine Gulch Fire (2020): 135,920 acres
3. Spring Fire (2018): 108,045 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
Note: 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.

Currently, the Hayman Fire is the largest wildfire on record in the state. That fire, which broke out in 2002, burned 137,760 acres north of Lake George, and included Park, Jefferson, Douglas and Teller Counties. According to the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, it was one of the most severe wildfires in respect to burn intensity. It grew rapidly and destroyed 600 structures in its path, including 133 residences, one commercial building and 466 outbuildings. The fire was caused by humans and was contained and and controlled by the end of July 2002.

The Pine Gulch Fire started on July 31 about 18 miles north of Grand Junction. It was sparked by lightning.

The following roads are under evacuation orders:

  • 4A Ridge Road/County Road 256
  • Salt Wash (205), King Road/County Road 258
  • Clear Creek Road/County Road 211
  • Carr Creek Road/County Road 207
  • Kimball Creek Road/County Road 202

A pre-evacuation order is in effect for:

  • All residents of Garfield County west of CO-139 to the Utah border
  • Any formerly evacuated residents

Click here for details on evacuations in Garfield County. There are no pre-evacuation or evacuation orders in Mesa County.

In addition to evacuations, there are road closures around the fire as well, including:

  • Roan Creek Road/County Road 204 at North Dry Fork/County Road 20
  • The V 2/10 Road at the 44 Road
  • Coal Canyon Road just past the Cameo Shooting Range
  • 21 Road north of the Bureau of Land Management boundary
  • 16 Road at V 8/10 Road
  • Q 5/10 Road is closed at 18 Road
  • Bureau of Land Management lands north of Loma, Fruita, Grand Junction, and Palisade

Douglas Pass reopened Tuesday evening. Travelers should prepare for slower speed limits and possible closures in the future.