Firefighters mobilize to protect structures threatened in Rio Blanco and Garfield Counties
CRAIG — Wildfires have continued to spark in Rio Blanco County and grow in Garfield County, threatening structures and prompting evacuations and road closures.
Following is an update on several wildfires impacting Northwest Colorado.
Cache Creek Fire
The Cache Creek Fire — burning 8 miles southwest of Rifle — has grown to more than 400 acres with zero-percent containment, according to a news release from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.
While the official cause of the fire is listed as unknown, lightning-producing thunderstorms moved through the area before the fire was reported about 8 p.m. Saturday.
Four cabins at the top of Garfield County Road 302 have been ordered to evacuate as the fire grows in that direction, according to a Tuesday morning update from fire managers.
“There is a road closure of County Road 302, approximately 3.5 miles in, just above the Y at the last residence,” according to a Garfield County Sheriff’s Office news release. “The public is encouraged to stay clear of this area to allow firefighting operations to proceed.”
The Rocky Mountain Blue Team was brought in at 6 a.m. Tuesday to take over fire management efforts.
More information on this developing story is available at postindependent.com.
Red Canyon Fire
The Red Canyon Fire is another lightning-caused a fire that has burned 1,190 acres of timber, brush, and grass in remote, rugged, mountainous terrain about 52 miles southwest of Meeker.
“Today, helicopters will continue water bucket drops as crews arrive to begin building containment lines,” according to a news release from the Southwest Area Incident Management Team 5, which has been in Rio Blanco County assisting with the Sulfur Creek and Indian Valley fires. “The airspace over the fire is restricted, and drone operators are reminded to not fly over the fire; if you fly, we can’t.”
Additionally, Rio Blanco County Road 120 is closed to the public at its junction with Rio Blanco County Road 27. Heavy fire traffic is occurring on RBCR 27. Additional closures can be expected in the area as fire activity continues, and crews ask the public to avoid the area.
Indian Valley Fire
Fire crews continue to monitor fire activity, mop-up hot spots, reinforce containment and dozer lines, and repair fire suppression impacts on the Indian Valley Fire, which has burned more than 6,300 acres of grass, brush, and timber about 16 miles northwest of Meeker, according to the Southwest Area Incident Management Team 5.
The lightning-caused fire started July 20, sending ash north into Craig. Smoke plumes from the interior of the containment line are expected to be visible into the immediate future.
While no road closures are currently in place, the public is advised to avoid the incident area, as there is heavy traffic along roads in the area, as well as firefighters working near Bureau of Land Management Road 1515.
Cabin Creek Fire
The Cabin Creek Fire is burning in timber and aspen on White River National Forest and private lands about 5.5 miles south of Buford in Rio Blanco County.
The Buford, New Castle Road is closed at the intersection of RBCR 10 and RBCR 17 and south to the Meadow Lake Campground turnoff — Forest Road 601 — according to an update posted on InciWeb Monday.
The Meadow Lake Campground remains open, and the fire is approximately 7 miles northwest of Meadow Lake.
Seven Lakes Lodge was evacuated, and a reverse 911 call was issued to residents of RBCR 17 to alert them to firefighting equipment in the area and the potential for a pre-evacuation or evacuation order.
Structures remain threatened, but no structures have been lost.
“Last (Sunday) night, engines and crews focused on structure protection and were successful. Structure protection, private and public property protection, and firefighter safety remain the top priorities,” according to the Monday InciWeb report.
Fire behavior Tuesday was expected to be active, with the potential for crowning runs through the canopy and burning on all sides of the fire.
Two hotshot crews are working directly on the north flank of the fire to establish a fire line in the areas closest to structures. Helicopters are conducting water bucket drops to check fire spread and cool hot spots in coordination with ground crews.
Sulphur and Seeley Fires
Command of suppression efforts on the Sulphur Fire was returned to local crews Tuesday as the fire reached 100-percent containment, according to the Southwest Area Incident Management Team 5.
Local crews are expected to continue to monitor the fire, which has burned about 977 acres about 5 miles north of Meeker. The fire was ignited by a lightning strike July 22 and was burning in oak brush and tall grass. It was 95-percent contained as of Sunday.
RBCR 11, which had been closed due to the Sulphur Fire, was reopened Sunday, however motorists should be aware that fire vehicles continue to travel between RBCR 11 and Barone Middle School.
Local crews, including the West Routt Fire Protection District, have been suppressing a number of other fires, including the 25-acre Seeley Fire, which started Saturday and was reported as fully contained Monday.
“Resources for wildland fires for our region are thin right now, and we are happy to help our neighbors out today, as we may need to call on them in the future,” according the West Routt Fire Protection District in a Facebook post about their help with the Seeley fire.
Smoke from many of the fires is expected to continue to impact Moffat County. Hot, dry, windy weather and isolated lightning-producing storms are expected to continue through the week, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. Hence, fire danger remains high, as Stage 1 Fire Restrictions continue in Craig and Moffat County.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.
A pair of Panther opponents dealt a tricky couple games to Moffat County High School baseball players while the Bulldogs were on the road.