Williams Fork Fire investigators determine blaze is human-caused

Pre-evacuation maps to be posted Monday
Posted at 1:57 AM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-17 12:10:10-04

FRASER, Colo. — Fire authorities in Grand County now say the Williams Fork Fire, which has consumed 6,345 acres near Fraser, was human-caused.

The team's evening update did not go into more detail, but did say pre-evacuation maps will be posted online Monday morning on Grand County's Office of Emergency Management's website.

The management team says the fire, burning in a beetle kill area southwest of Fraser, is going to be a tough one to battle.

"This is going to be a long haul," said an operations spokesman. "We're looking at expected containment date sometime in October."

It started on Aug. 14.

The tinder dry conditions are worrisome to residents in Fraser. The fire is just seven miles away.

"It's a little scary for everybody who lives here, in this little tight-knit community," said Dave Purdy. "We need some rain. The weather is not very helpful right now."

During an early evening briefing on the sheriff's Facebook page, the management team was asked about a worst-case scenario.

The operations spokesman said, "One bad day of southwest winds and it could reach Fraser and Winter Park in one day."

Lucas Paich and Bailey Putnam hope it doesn't come to that.

When asked if he gives any thought to what he'd take in case an evacuation order comes down, Paich replied, "I do, everything that I can fit in my truck, I'll just load up and get out as fast as possible."

His girlfriend, who was up visiting this weekend from Denver, said she noticed all the smoke along Interstate 70.

"I have dogs with me," Putnam said. "Their heads were out the window, and we were breathing the smoke. I was wondering if was OK for us to even be out here."

Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said stage two fire restrictions are now in place.

"That means no open burning, no smoking, no fireworks, no tracer rounds, no exploding targets, no exploding ammunition, and obviously the good old common sense that goes along with all of those," he said.

Resources stretched thin

With four major fires burning in Colorado, resources are stretched thin.

Sulpher Ranger District Ranger, Shoshana Cooper, said available resources are coordinated based on priority.

"We don't have structures that are threatened. We have not lost any structures, and some of those other fires that have lost structures, or have structures threatened, resources are diverted to help those places out," she said. "We're all in this together, and that's, I think, important for people to remember."

Fire managers say they're trying to keep the Williams Fork blaze between Grand County Roads 30 and 50, and between Keyser Creek Road and Darling Creek.

A Type II team takes over command at 6 a.m. Monday.