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Monday is a 'crucial day' in fight against Pine Gulch Fire on Western Slope

Posted at 11:11 AM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-18 10:34:06-04

MESA AND GARFIELD COUNTIES, Colo. — Fire officials are calling Monday a "crucial day" for implementing a plan on attacking the Pine Gulch Fire, which grew to 86,120 acres by Monday evening.

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team reported that the Western Slope fire reached multiple drainage to the west, many of which are critically dry, which creates a relatively easy way for the fire to spread.

"It is a crucial day for fire staff to implement plans," the team reported Monday morning. "Today presents an opportunity to successfully influence the duration of the Pine Gulch Fire. Crews will be working swiftly to seize control and suppression opportunities."

More than 800 fire personnel are working at the blaze, which remains 7% contained.

Pine Gulch Fire August 17 2020 update

Click here for an interactive map of the fire.

On Monday, firefighters will prioritize the work along the fire's northwest and southwest sides. In addition, firefighters will create secondary control lines between the fire and Douglas Pass, to the northwest.

The southwest area was particularly active on Sunday as it burned along Garfield Mesa and Ross Ridge, the management team said.

The crews to the south and east have made "excellent progress" and are mostly patrolling and monitoring the fire, the team reported. They will continue to secure the fire lines along those edges.

Residents and travelers in the area will likely see smoke columns — sometimes multiple — in several areas of the fire.

Temperatures will reach the mid 90s with light winds of 4 to 9 mph and gusts up to 14 mph in the area on Monday.

The fire was first reported on July 31 about 18 miles north of Grand Junction. It was caused by lightning.

RELATED STORIES: Click here for more Denver7 coverage on the Pine Gulch Fire and other current wildfires

The fire is now the fourth-largest in Colorado history.

The state's 10 largest fires in history, ranked by acreage, are:
1. Hayman Fire (2002): 137,760 acres
2. Spring Fire (2018): 108,045 acres
3. High Park Fire (2012): 87,284 acres
4. Pine Gulch Fire (2020): 86,120 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

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.

There have been several evacuations for the Pine Gulch Fire, though no new orders have been announced since Aug. 9 and 10. The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office ordered evacuations for residents on the following roads:

  • Roan Creek Road/County Road 204 (road closure also in effect)
  • Clear Creek Road/County Road 211
  • Carr Creek Road/County Road 207
  • Brush Creek Road/County Road 209

Residents on Kimball Creek Road/County Road 202 were also evacuated. Authorities have closed that road. To learn more about these evacuations, click here.

Residents in the affected counties can sign up to receive alerts and new information on the fire here for Garfield County and here for Mesa County.

Click here to learn more about the smoke outlook in Colorado. A temporary flight restriction is in place over the Pine Gulch Fire. No drones can fly in the area.