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Williams Fork Fire grows to 6,627 acres, with 0% containment

Incident Commander: "It’s a very extremely difficult area to fight fire in."
smoke cloud saturday williams fork fire
Posted at 5:57 PM, Aug 15, 2020

GRAND COUNTY, Colo. – The Williams Fork Fire had grown to 6,627 acres by Monday evening, with 0% containment, Arapaho National Forest officials said.

The fire was up from about 4,100 acres Saturday.

Fire officials were working with the Grand County Sheriff's Office on an evacuation plan, if needed, for the towns of Fraser and Winter Park, though no evacuations were expected to be needed on Sunday.

The fire has started burning into the Byers Peak wilderness to the east. The fire is burning about seven miles from Fraser. Officials estimated that it would take up to two months for the fire to be fully contained due to the dry conditions expected to continue in the weeks ahead.

Watch the full update from Williams Fork Fire officials on Sunday:

Ed LeBlanc, the Arapaho National Forest Incident Commander, said during a community meeting Saturday that the fire was burning in heavy dead and downed lodgepole pine and spruce fir trees – most killed by beetles. He said that firefighters were not being sent directly into the fuels for their safety. The fire started Friday afternoon and has burned quickly.

“It’s a very extremely difficult area to fight fire in, with all the fuel loading in the drainage,” LeBlanc said.

He said that crews’ goals were to keep the fire east of County Road 130, south of the Keyser Creek drainage and north of Darling Creek. He said officials were looking at using the burn scar from the 2018 Sugarloaf Fire as a containment point.

The fire was moving to the southeast as of Friday evening.

Schelly Olson, a spokesperson for the fire, said that winds were 5 to 15 miles per hour out of the northwest, with temperatures in the lower 80s and relative humidity at 11%.

Officials said a Type 2 incident management team would be coming in to help on Sunday and that officials hoped to start gaining containment on the fire “over the next couple of days.”

The fire’s smoke plume reached approximately 40,000 feet at 5 p.m. on Saturday, the National Weather Service said.

There are currently one hot shot crew, three fire use modules, air attack, heavy air tankers and heavy helicopters at the fire, with 10 hotshot crews and heavy equipment on order.

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. But officials said that a crew was inserted to the lightning-caused fire with a helicopter and were getting it contained as of 5:30 p.m.

The officials said Saturday the cause of the Williams Fork Fire remains unknown and under investigation.

Officials said they would have a a Facebook page for the fire and other information coming soon.

Evacuations

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

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

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.

On Friday, mandatory evacuations were ordered 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).