Breckenridge Wildfire: Evacuations Remain In Place; Tankers Drop Slurry

Photo: Breckenridge Wildfire 1 | Peak 2, July 5 - Inciweb
The Breckenridge Wildfire is burning on Peak 2 and was reported by a mountain biker. Photo is from July 5, 2017.

Updated 3:30 p.m. -- Firefighters were working Thursday to keep a wildfire that's forced the evacuation of hundreds of people from spreading toward homes near Colorado's Breckenridge Ski Resort and the nearby historic town.

Crews were attacking the fire, burning about 2 miles north of the resort, by dropping firefighting slurry from the air as well as building containment lines on the ground to stop it from reaching nearly 500 evacuated homes. Insurance companies also paid to send contracted fire engines to the area to try to protect the pricey ski properties. Winds were calm early Thursday but officials acknowledged that all their efforts to save properties could be undercut if winds shift.

The evacuees, including vacationers, were briefly allowed back to their homes to pick up items they were not able to grab before being told to leave as the fire blew up on Wednesday.

The relatively small blaze quickly sent up a column of smoke visible from Interstate 70, Colorado's main east-west highway, and the 19th-century Victorian buildings in the town of Breckenridge, a onetime gold-mining camp. Residents in town have been warned to be ready to leave in case the fire spreads toward it.

Photo: Map Of Breckenridge Fire June 5 (InciWeb)
Map of the Breckenridge wildfire June 5, 2017.

Nebraska resident Sheila Calhorn was among those who had their vacations interrupted by the fire.

"We were down in Breckenridge and we looked outside, and people were all staring into the sky and you could see smoke just billowing up," she told the Summit Daily News in Frisco.

"This was supposed to be a stress-relieving vacation," she said.

The fire, consuming beetle-killed trees in the White River National Forest, is one of several burning in Colorado and elsewhere around the West.

Since the blaze broke out Wednesday morning, it has scorched about 80 acres (32.4 hectares) but has not burned any homes.

The base of the resort, which includes hotels, restaurants and businesses, was not evacuated.

Photo: Breckenridge Wildfire Seen From Town Looking North June 5 (InciWeb)
The Breckenridge wildfire as seen from town, looking north.

Details via InciWeb:

  • The Peak 2 fire is burning in the Miner's Creek drainage between Frisco and Breckenridge, two miles north of the Breckenridge ski area.
  • The Peak 7 development has been evacuated. Evacuation Center is located at Summit Middle School: 158 School Road Frisco, CO 80443. The Red cross is providing services.
  • Animal boarding/shelter is available at the Summit School District Bus Barn next to the evacuation center. Please call 970-668-3230 for information.
  • Checkpoints are in place at Ski Hill Road at the Peaks Trail and on Barton Road where it meets Airport Road. Airport Road is still open.
  • Peaks Trail, Gold Hill, Wheeler, Miner's Creek trails are closed. Parts of the Colorado Trail are closed where overlap occurs with trail closures in the area.
  • The fire is being managed under the Unified Command of the US Forest Service, the Summit County Sheriff and the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District.

Fire spokeswoman Kate Jerman is asking for the public’s help too, to keep drones from interfering with helicopters dropping water on the flames.

"If we see a drone in the vicinity we have to ground our aerial resources. So if people are flying drones, we can’t fly. It stops our operation," she said.

Drones disrupted fire-fighting operations near Durango four times last week.

More Wildfires Scorch The West

In Washington state, a grass and brush fire burning in part on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was 85 percent contained and is not threatening any of the site's nuclear facilities. It has burned about 36 square miles in Yakima and Benton counties.

In northern Nevada, a fire official blames a wind shift for pushing a wildfire across at least one rural homestead property.

Truckee Meadows Fire Chief Charles Moore said Thursday that a team of firefighters narrowly escaped, but no injuries were reported when flames reversed Wednesday afternoon and headed toward homes in the Palomino Valley north of Reno.

Ken and Sue McGuire told KRNV-TV in Reno that they lost a house, a travel trailer where their son lived, sheds and vehicles as flames swept across their 40-acre property.

About 500 people heeded an advisory to evacuate ahead of the nearly 5.5 square mile blaze burning through grass and brush.

The fire is about 20 percent contained, Moore said, and a federal wildfire specialty team is due Thursday to join the battle.

In Arizona, the summer-retreat community of Summerhaven atop Mount Lemmon remained evacuated after a wildfire charred more than 38 square miles in mountains and foothills overlooking Tucson. The wildfire started Friday, and its cause remains under investigation.