Wind gusts of more than 70 miles per hour Monday afternoon drove fast growth of the Dead Dog Fire in western Moffat County to more than 5,000 acres by evening, according to Bureau of Land Management spokesperson David Boyd.
The fire measured around only 40 acres 24 hours earlier and measured around 1,000 acres early Monday afternoon.
“The Dead Dog fire saw tremendous growth. It moved more than four miles because of the high winds,” Boyd said.
U.S. Highway 40 was closed around 3 p.m. when the fire approached within a quarter mile, but was reopened at approximately 7:30 p.m., said Colorado State Patrol Captain Doug Conrad.
Blue Mountain Road between U.S Highway 40 and Rangely — also known as Moffat County Road 134 and Rio Blanco County Road 1 — remains closed as of Monday evening.
The evacuation of the small community of Blue Mountain near Dinosaur has been lifted and residents have been allowed to return home. There is still no containment estimate for the fire.
The lightning-caused Hunter Fire southwest of Meeker grew quickly Saturday but did not grow significantly Monday thanks to the hard work of firefighting crews, Boyd said. The fire has burned 1,063 acres with 30-percent containment.
More than 200 firefighters are working both fires, according to a BLM press release, with additional resources en route. Air resources also worked to contain the fires before being grounded by high winds.
The cause of Dead Dog Fire is still under investigation. It began on BLM land 10 miles north of Rangely and was reported to be around only 40 acres with no containment Sunday evening.
A new incident management team assumes command of the two fires tomorrow to free up local resources, the BLM release said.
“It’s going to be a little cooler tomorrow, but we still expect very high winds,” Boyd said.
High winds sustained around 20 to 25 miles per hour with gusts up to 40 miles per hour are expected Tuesday as a cold front continues to blow through the area.
The Cross Fire 35 miles west of Craig remains at 55 acres, while crews were able to contain the 67-acre Temple Fire south of Juniper Hot Springs on Sunday, according to the BLM.