Alkali Fire in Moffat County grows to 20,000 acres

Photo: Alkali fireStrong winds and dry grass are fueling the Alkali Fire in northwest Colorado, which has already burned at least 20,000 acres northwest of Craig.

Gusty and erratic winds have been making the work harder for fire fighters.

The sparsely populated area is mostly ranchland and sagebrush, fairly flat ground that calls for a different kind of firefighting than in more rugged mountain areas.

"When you are looking at flat terrain you can utilize road graders, that type of equipment, where you cannot in steep terrain," Lynn Barclay with the Bureau of Land Management said.

Crews are using a road grader to cut lines around the fire. An air tanker made water drops Wednesday.

There are oil and gas drilling sites and pipelines in the area, but no reports of any damage so far. Still, Barclay says the presence of the lines makes the firefighting challenging.

"Some of the pipelines may be buried fairly shallow, so our firefighters have to be careful to you know not go too deep where they could possible hit a pipeline," she said.

The area is sparsely populated, but three people had to leave Wednesday ahead of the flames, and ranchers have moved their livestock out of the fire’s path.