Colorado Wildfire Updates For Aug. 20: Maps, Evacuations, Closures, Fire Growth And More

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
At a gas station on Interstate 70 in Debeque on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. A thick smokey pall that one can taste has settled over the Grand Junction region, the result of the Pine Gulch Fire, which is now the second largest Colorado wildfire on record.

Editor's Note: This post collects all updates on Colorado major wildfires for Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. You can find the latest updates here. Our original post continues below.

Colorado will get help from the government to defray the costs of fighting the two biggest wildfires in the state. The Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized the money after they determined the fires "threatened such destruction as would constitute a major disaster."

The FEMA grant will cover 75 percent of Colorado's firefighting costs but will not cover fire damage to homes or businesses. Infrastructure damage caused by the fire is also not covered.

Nearly a fourth of the state is in an extreme drought, new fires continue to break out and the governor has ordered a 30-day statewide fire ban. The flames have shut down Interstate-70 and the smoke has many Coloradans breathing unhealthy air.

State climate scientists say we should expect more summers just like the current one the state is living through. 

Here are the current statuses of Colorado’s four major wildfires (click on the fire name to jump to the updates):

Grizzly Creek

5:44 p.m.: Some good news for Glenwood Canyon: I-70 could reopen in days, not weeks." Drivers should still be wary, though.

4:28 p.m.: Tom Coletti, a fire supervisor at the Grizzly Creek Fire, is responsible for fighting not only the flames, but also the potential spread of COVID-19 among the crew.

"We're doing a lot of the same things that the people of the country are doing: social distancing, isolation, trying to stay in smaller groups, traveling in vehicles solo rather than with groups of people," Coletti said. "And if we do come with a group of people, we try to contain ourselves and stay within that group."

About 850 people are battling the fire in Glenwood Springs.

Natalia Navarro

9:29 a.m.: Curious what it looks like on the fire lines?

7:16 a.m.: One of the people fighting the wildfires in Colorado is also a member of the governor's cabinet.

Dan Gibbs, the head of the state department of natural resources, has been a certified wildland firefighter for 13 years. He was on a crew working to protect homes from the Grizzly Creek fire burning near Glenwood Springs.

"I really feel like this is really important for me to be on the ground, to really understand the complexities that wildfires bring to our natural resources, how it impacts our watersheds, our communities, our wildlife, and just big picture overall natural resources," he said.

Gibbs is on-call to fight wildfires not just in Colorado, but across the country.

Michelle Fulcher

Pine Gulch

10:47 a.m.: There will be a virtual community meeting for the fire on Facebook tonight at 6:00 p.m.

9:51 a.m.: Historic dry conditions are still fueling the active fire behavior witnessed by firefighters. The forecast is not doing any favors either. On Wednesday, the temperature at the Colorado National Monument hit 101 degrees — besting the previous high record of 99 set in 2002.

A Red Flag Warning remains in effect for most of the Western Slope with temperatures forecast into the 100s for the next 5 days.

7:16 a.m.: There are 872 people working to knock down the second-largest fire in state history. Even as the state has focused on the Grizzly Creek fire and its closure of I-70, the continued growth of the blaze north of Grand Junction has kept the burn "a very high priority in the state and in the nation," said information officer Tracy LeClair.

Cameron Peak

4:26 p.m.: The major fire burning in Larimer County grew by 1,000 acres overnight, and a fire weather watch is in effect today.

Lizzie Senesec lives east of the Cameron Peak fire. She's not under evacuation orders, but she's still preparing to leave just in case.

"They actually came by and cut down some of our trees the other day and moved and moved all of our firewood away from our house," Senesec said. "We just packed all the things we thought were important, and the cat is staying inside in case we need to find her."

The fire is growing mainly to the south, toward Rocky Mountain National Park, which has been partially closed by the flames.

Sam Brasch

7:16 a.m.: The Forest Service says it appears people started the Cameron Peak Fire and law enforcement wants help from the public with their investigation. While eyewitness accounts are welcome, officials say the most helpful evidence would be photos or videos of smoke near trails south of Cameron Peak.

Williams Fork

9:39 a.m.: The grew 2,731 acres on Wednesday thanks to strong winds and dead timber. However, the fire did not advance toward the town of Fraser or Winter Park. The containment established by firefighters on the northwest side of the fire held.

The focus today for crews will be the south and southeast edges of the fire and managers are expecting a favorable weather outlook to assist.

7:16 a.m.: Despite thunderstorms and lightning, firefighters have managed to contain a small part of the fire burning in a remote wilderness area east of Granby. Public information officer Robyn Broyles said they’re trying to keep the fire from hitting a nearby county road.

"That section of the fire is burning, it's burning on a very steep, rocky slope and it's not moving very quickly," she said. "So we are using that roadway as a containment area."

Officials say the fire was human-caused but the exact cause remains unknown.