Crews continue battling the slower-growing Pine Ridge Fire
Update 5:44 p.m.
The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department just announced on its Facebook page that Sheriff Stan Hilkey is telling residents gathered at a community meeting in De Beque this evening that the evacuation order for the southeast part of the community is being lifted in full. The evacuation order was lifted for some residents late Friday night.
A Daily Sentinel reporter is at this evening’s meeting. Read the full story in Sunday’s newspaper.
Update 4:25 p.m.
A large plume of smoke that’s visible in the Grand Valley is rising north of the Bookcliffs, and initial police reports indicate it’s coming from the Douglas Pass area on Colorado Highway 139.
Garfield County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Tanny McGinnis said sheriff’s deputies and firefighters with the Lower Valley Fire Protection District are headed to the area to perform a smoke check.
Update 3:01 p.m.
A second straight day of calm winds and no lightning should aid crews battling the Pine Ridge Fire, although the continued hot and dry spell won’t offer any relief.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction forecasts wind out of the north and northwest at 5 to 10 mph and no thunderstorms today or tomorrow, which should help prevent new fire starts and spotting.
Grand Junction remains toasty, though, with a forecast high today of 102 degrees. The Weather Service calls for high temperatures to remain around 100 up through Thursday.
Update 2:42 p.m.
The Mesa County Emergency Operations Center this afternoon closed the evacuation center at Palisade High School after no evacuees showed up since the center opened two days ago.
The Western Colorado Chapter of the American Red Cross opened the evacuation center at 5:45 p.m. Thursday and has been open around the clock since then. But with no evacuees taking advantage of it, authorities decided to close it.
Mesa County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said the Red Cross remains available to reactivate the center if it’s needed or to assist on an individual basis those displaced by the Pine Ridge Fire.
The Red Cross is staffing its information and assistance phone line 24 hours a day. Anyone needing help from the nonprofit organization should call 970-210-9742.
Fire crews continue battling the Pine Ridge Fire, which grew 400 acres Friday and early Saturday morning. It has burned 12,431 acres southwest of De Beque and is 10 percent contained, said Bill Hahnenberg, incident commander for the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team.
He said the town of De Beque continues to be potentially threatened by the fire, though portions of an emergency evacuation order were lifted Friday night. A mandatory evacuation order still is in place for areas east of 45 1/2 Road from T Road south to Colorado Highway 65, including residents on or near Horse Canyon Road. The fire danger in those areas remains very high, said Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey.
Hahnenberg said six crews are fighting the blaze, and on Saturday are creating fireline along Wagon Track Road to contain its northeast and northwest flanks. Crews also are working on the fire’s southeastern flank to make sure it doesn’t jump Interstate 70, Hilkey said. Crews also are working to protect cottonwood galleries along the Colorado River.
At 6 a.m. Saturday, the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team assumed management of the fire, which previously had been managed by the local Upper Colorado River Type 3 Incident Management Team. Hahnenberg said a Type 1 team is needed for the Pine Ridge Fire because of several significant concerns, including its nearness to Interstate 70 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and how it could affect transportation; its proximity to oil and gas wells; and the continued threat to De Beque.
Hilkey said De Beque residents should remain vigilant, and even though a portion of the mandatory evacuation was lifted, residents in those areas remain on evacuation alert.