Colorado Wildfire Updates: Low Humidity, Higher Temperatures May Challenge Firefighters

August 27, 2018
Photo: Bull Draw Fire Staff 8-28
Bull Draw Fire staff at a morning meeting on Aug. 17, 2018.

Published 8.27.2018 | Updated 8.29.2018

Fire restrictions are backing down in some counties. The firework show that was canceled on July 4 in Rio Blanco County was rescheduled for Friday evening, Aug. 31, at Kenney Reservoir, the sheriff’s office said.

Rain has helped fire crews battle wildfires through last week, but higher temperatures and low humidity will challenge firefighters. Five fires were active in Colorado, Inciweb reported. Here are the latest updates on blazed burning in the state:

Aug. 29 Updates:

Lake Christine Fire

The fire in Eagle County has burned 12,588 acres and is 90 percent contained, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. It’s cost $17.4 million to fight so far.

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office issued a fire weather watch for Thursday due to wind gusts and low humidity. But the county plans to back down to stage 1 fire restrictions starting Friday and into Labor Day weekend, the Vail Daily reports. Campfires in designated campgrounds and fire rings will be allowed as well as outdoor smoking on hard surfaces or in areas clear of vegetation.  

Silver Creek Fire

Pre-evacuations for Latigo Ranch, Old Park and Gore Lakes were lifted Tuesday afternoon, a news release from the Silver Creek Fire Facebook page said. Minimal fire behavior was expected Wednesday. The fire was 50 percent contained and had burned 4,772 acres.

Cabin Lake Fire

The fire is 82 percent contained and has burned 5,975 acres on Wednesday morning, according to Inciweb. It’s cost $11 million to fight so far.

The cause of the Cabin Lake Fire is still under investigation, but the blaze started on July 29. At its peak, the fire threatened 46 residences and 81 other structures, and had more than 500 people working on it.

Bull Draw Fire

Although little fire behavior was expected on Wednesday, strong winds, and hot and dry weather could change that. A news release on the Bull Draw Fire Facebook page said there’s been no increase in the fire’s containment or growth. The blaze is at 30,208 acres and is 54 percent contained. The fire has cost $10.7 million to fight, NIFC reported.

Aug. 28 Updates:

Wildfires in Colorado have burned almost 450,000 acres so far this year and firefighting costs in the state are growing by the day.
The National Interagency Fire Center reports active wildfires in the state have cost just over $90 million to date. That number doesn't include inactive fires from earlier in this summer, like the 416 Fire, which cost $30 million alone, The Denver Post reported.
The U.S. Forest Service has spent $53 million on fire suppression in the Rocky Mountain region, which includes Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service said Tuesday.
And the Lake Christine Fire racked up over $17 million. Karen Schroyer, Aspen-Sopris District Manager, told KKCO in Grand Junction that projected costs for ground crews, engines and helicopters exceed $18 million.
The Cabin Lake and Cache Creek fires in northwestern Colorado cost over $16 million combined by Tuesday afternoon, the NIFC reports.
The cause of the Cabin Lake Fire is still under investigation, but the blaze has burned almost 6,000 acres since starting on July 29. At its peak, the fire threatened 46 residences and 81 other structures and had more than 500 people working on it. Several evacuations were also underway, but have since been lifted.
Photo: Cabin Lake Fire Wide Shot 8-20
Crews work on the Cabin Lake Fire on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2018.

The Cache Creek Fire was caused by lightning on July 28 and has swallowed up 2,703 acres since. It was 55 percent contained Tuesday afternoon.

Carrie Bilbao is a spokeswoman for NIFC. She said the duration and complexity of a fire can drive suppression costs up. In addition, if a fire is managed by an Incident Management Team, “the costs would increase significantly due to the increase of personnel, firefighting resources and mobilizing expense,” she said.

Nationally, the cost to fight wildfires is increasing as access to fires becomes more difficult, Bilbao said. Aircraft, water and retardant drops are the biggest expense when it comes to fighting fires, she said.

“Generally, if you’re trying to keep a fire smaller, you’re going to be using more retardant and helicopter and aircraft to work with the ground crews to get ahead of the fire,” she said on Tuesday. “You might be spending more on aircraft and those kinds of things because you don’t have a lot of ground resources to get in there.”

Bilbao said NIFC has noticed that fire seasons have moved to fire years and wildfires aren’t going to go away anytime soon. More acreage has been burned nationally by human-caused fires over ones started by lightning, a change from past fire seasons, she said.

Seven wildfires were active in Colorado on Tuesday, according to Inciweb.

Cabin Lake Fire

The fire is 82 percent contained and has had little growth over the last week. More than 200 people were working on the fire Tuesday morning, according to a news release from Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office.

“A few visible smokes were seen across the fire perimeter today,” the release said. “A multi-mission aircraft flight is scheduled for today to help with finding hotspots not visible to crews on the ground.”

Silver Creek Fire

Photo: Bull Draw Fire Worker Looks At Fire 8-27
A firefighter in the Bull Draw Fire on Aug. 25, 2018.

The Silver Creek Fire was 50 percent contained Tuesday afternoon. Wind on Monday had little impact on the fire because of rain on Sunday night, the Silver Creek Fire Facebook page reported. More than 100 people were working on the fire.

Bull Draw Fire

The fire has had little growth in the last week because of rain. About 61 people were working on the fire, the Bull Draw Fire Facebook page reported.

Aug. 27 Updates: 

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for northeastern Colorado on Monday. Strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures created dangerous wildfire conditions for the Front Range and northeastern plains.
An interesting tidbit: The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center told The Denver Post that humans were responsible for 9 out of every 10 forest fires in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota back in 2017. Humans are increasingly the cause of wildfires that burn both land and property.

On the bright side, air quality in Colorado was good and no advisories were in effect, state health officials reported on Monday.

Seven wildfires were burning in the state, according to Inciweb. Most are nearly 50 percent or more contained. Here’s the latest on wildfire happenings around Colorado:

Silver Creek Fire — 16 miles northwest of Kremmling

Containment in the Silver Creek Fire nearly doubled over the weekend and was 49 percent contained Monday morning. The Silver Creek Fire Facebook page reported that the Latigo Ranch, Old Park and Gore Lakes communities were under a pre-evacuation.

Photo: Silver Creek Fire Nighttime Operations 8-24
Fire crews in the Silver Creek Fire from the Wyoming Interagency Hotshots work on nighttime operations on Aug. 15, 2018. 

“Our highest priority remains the safety of the public and firefighters. We want to work with local residents that are affected by our operations and minimize the interruption we may cause,” said Incident Commander Robert Lehmann in a news release.

Cabin Lake Fire — 16 miles southeast of Meeker

County Road 10 was opened to the public Monday morning and containment more than doubled to 82 percent contained since the beginning of last week. The blaze was nearly 6,000 acres, the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office reported.

Photo: Cabin Lake Fire Workers Clear Debris 8-27
Florida Forest Service works with a chipper to remove debris along the perimeter of the Cabin Lake Fire on Aug. 26, 2018.

“A passing weather disturbance will bring gusty winds and lower humidity to the area. This, along with increased drying, will encourage unburned pockets within the fire perimeter to burn and increase visible smoke,” a news release from the Sheriff’s Office said Monday.

No structures were threatened. The White River National Forest is under a level two fire restriction.

Bull Draw Fire — 12 miles northwest of Nucla

Higher humidity and lower temperatures helped with fire control over the weekend, the Bull Draw Fire Facebook page reported Monday morning. The fire was 54 percent contained and burned 30,208 acres. About 163 people were working on the fire.

Photo: Bull Draw Firefighter Selfie 8-21
A Shenandoah National Park firefighter takes a selfie in the Bull Draw Fire on Aug. 18, 2018.

Temporary flight restrictions are still in effect, but Divide Road is open to the public. The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest closures include forest lands south of Forest System Road 407, south and west of Divide Road down to Forest System Road 600.

Lake Christine Fire — 1 mile northwest of Basalt

After over a month of firefighting operations, the Lake Christine Fire continues, burning 12,588 acres, according to Inciweb. The fire is 90 percent contained and is burning 1 mile away from Basalt near Fort Garland.

The Lake Christine Fire began July 3 and spread rapidly on July 4, destroying three homes. Authorities said the fire started by using tracer rounds at a firing range. Two suspects in their 20s turned themselves in July 15.

Plateau Fire — 13 miles north of Dolores

The Plateau Fire in the San Juan National Forest has burned 19,634 acres and was 95 percent contained on Monday morning, according to Inciweb. The fire has been burning since July 22 and was caused by lightning.

Sugarloaf Fire — 13 miles southwest of Fraser

The Sugarloaf Fire burned 1,280 acres and was 35 percent contained. The fire was started by lightning.

Cache Creek Fire — 8 miles southwest of Rifle

Rain significantly decreased fire activity last week, a news release reported on Friday. The fire burned 2,703 acres and was 55 percent contained. The fire was caused by lightning.  

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