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Williams Fork Fire burning on Arapaho National Forest grows to 1,354 acres in size

Pre-evacuation notices Saturday for areas of Aspen Canyon, Morgan Gulch and Henderson
Area of Williams Fork Fire
Posted at 1:07 PM, Aug 14, 2020

UPDATE (6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020): The Williams Fork Fire grew Saturday to approximately 4,145 acres, with 0% containment, as of 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Arapaho National Forest officials said.

The new estimates came from a recent flight mapping, the National Forest said shortly after officials estimated the fire at 3,000 acres in size during a community meeting. Click here to read the latest.

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GRAND COUNTY, Colo. — There have so far on Saturday been few updates regarding the Williams Fork Fire, which is still estimated at around 1,300 acres in size until a new mapping can be done.

A pre-evacuation notice went out for the areas of Aspen Canyon, Morgan Gulch and Henderson, and fire officials asked people to have overnight bags ready to go.

Fire crews and USFS helicopters were also sent to a small fire near Monarch Lake around 4 p.m. that at the time was just one-tenth of an acre in size.

A Facebook Live community meeting is being held by the Grand County Sheriff's Office at 5 p.m. Click here to watch or watch in the player below.

The wildfire, fueled by beetle kill on the Arapaho National Forest in Grand County, exploded into a fiery inferno Friday, consuming more than 1,300 acres by the time the sun had set.

The Williams Fork Fire was first reported at around 12:30 p.m. on County Road 30, south of Williams Fork Reservoir and near Henderson Mill by officials from the Grand County Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

Deputies with the sheriff's office and firefighters with the Hot Sulphur Springs Parshall Fire Protection District initially responded to the fire, which was initially estimated to be 10 acres in size. It didn't take long for authorities to issue road closures and campground evacuations due to the fire.

By 3:30 p.m., the wildfire had grown to 250 acres in size and was spreading east toward Church Park, according to the Forest Service, burning in a remote area with intensive beetle kill.

The blaze, which officials said was displaying "extreme fire behavior," quickly grew some 573 acres in about an hour-and-a-half to about 823 acres by 5 p.m. Two hours later, the flames had spread to an area of more than 1,300 acres as the fire continued to move east/northeast toward Church Park, an official with the US Forest Service said. And by 9 p.m., the blaze was estimated to be 1,354 acres in size.

The fire had also reached the top Kinney Creek and Darling Creek and was holding east of County Road 30 and south of Keyser Circle

Road closures in place, evacuations issued

Residents in the area can sign up for evacuation notices through the Grand County Code RED program.

County Road 30 was closed around County Road 3, according to the county's OEM, except to mill traffic. The east side of County Road 50 was also closed near Young Life.

The Sugarloaf Campground and South Fork Campground were under mandatory evacuation orders when the fire was first reported. Both areas had been evacuated by 3:30 p.m.

By 5 p.m., the Grand County Sheriff's Office had ordered mandatory evacuations for "homes in the immediate vicinity" of the Williams Fork Fire, which did not include - as of 10 p.m. - the Fraser Valley. And pre-evacuation orders were issued at 7:17 p.m. for the areas of County Road 50, 50S, and St Louis Creek Road (County Road 73).

Evacuees were asked to take an overnight bag with necessary items such as regular medications, change of clothes, IDs, cash, water and snacks with them.

"Please have all necessary items ready to go should the order to evacuate be given," an official with the Grand County Sheriff's Office said.

Officials with the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center (RMACC) said they sent two very large air tankers (VLAT), an additional four large air tankers (LATs), as well as an additional two single-engine air tankers (SEATs) to help ground crews respond to the blaze.

A temporary flight restriction was in effect due to the blaze, RMACC officials said, meaning no aircraft or drones can fly over the area. Authorities have also asked the public to avoid the area.

The following areas had been evacuated by Friday night, according to U.S. Forest Service officials: From County Road 30 on the west to Church Park. From the St. Louis Creek Road on the east to the Darling Creek drainage to the south.

Heavy air support along with about 50 firefighters from multiple cooperating agencies from Summit and Grand counties battled the blaze throughout the day, with a type 3 team in charge of managing the fire. A type 2 incident management team has been ordered to assist, Forest Service officials said.

The Williams Fork Fire remains 0% contained. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.