Pine Ridge Fire: June 29 updates

Update 7:40 p.m.
Christopher Joyce, BLM Spokesperson reports that firefighters doubled their containment efforts today and halted the advance of the Pine Ridge Fire at the Colorado River. Containment has reached 10 percent.

Crews also focused on the western flank of the fire today, making advances on the work done Thursday night. Ground crews were assisted four air tankers and a spotter plane. A federal Type 1 fire crew has arrived and will officially take the reigns of firefighting efforts at 6 a.m. Saturday.

Three unoccupied tents and campers were destroyed when the fire crossed Mustang Ranch Thursday. The area remains unsafe for owners of those structures to return at this time.

No new evacuations or pre-evacuation advisories have been issued today.

Update 6:15 p.m.
A community meeting in De Beque will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday to discuss the latest on the fire. The meeting will be at the DeBeque Community Center, 397 Mintor Avenue. Any interested parties are encouraged to attend.

Pine Ridge Fire boundaries

View Pine Ridge Fire in a larger map

Update 5:51 p.m.
More favorable weather today has vastly slowed the spread of the Pine Ridge Fire.

Fire spokeswoman Skye Sieber said the fire continues to be estimated to be about 12,000 acres in size, and a more accurate estimate won’t be available until morning.

After charging across thousands of acres Thursday, the fire has displayed much less activity today, with the weather marked by calm winds.

“Yeah, this is looking good,” Sieber said as she surveyed the fire from De Beque. “… This is looking so much better than yesterday.”

So far the fire has not crossed the Colorado River or Interstate 70, and crews are trying to keep it that way. Sieber said aircraft have been prepositioned so they can jump on any spot fires if they are detected east of the highway or river.

Some 50 homes south of De Beque have been evacuated and that evacuation order remains in place. Residents of De Beque continue to be on notice that an evacuation may be necessary depending on the fire’s future activity.

Three structures have been lost in the blaze, all on the private Mustang Ranch, a subdivided property in the area of the fire’s start. Sieber said the structures consisted of things such as campers and canvas tents or teepees, and not homes.


Update 2:18 p.m.
The Union Pacific Railroad tracks are closed through De Beque Canyon, and trains are being rerouted through Wyoming.

Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said this afternoon the tracks were closed about 6:30 p.m. Thursday due to the fire dropping down from the canyon rim into the canyon and burning across the tracks.

“We take into consideration the safety of the crews, not only from the fire standpoint, but it sounds like there’s a lot of smoke in the area. It could be an inhalation issue for our crews,” he said, adding that the smoke also could impair the operation of the train engines.

All train traffic, including Amtrak passenger trains, are being rerouted at Denver and Salt Lake City through Wyoming.

Update 2:10 p.m.
Livestock owners who need to evacuate their animals are being asked to call 211 from landlines and 244-8400 from cell phones to coordinate evacuations of large animals and to ensure owners have a location to take their animals.

Volunteers with the Mesa County Sheriff Department Posse are available and standing by to help with evacuations. A number of facilities are on a list to temporarily board large animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, llamas and goats.

Smaller animals such as dogs and cats should be taken, along with their owners, to the evacuation center, Palisade High School, 3679 G Road in Palisade.

Update 1:45 p.m.
The City of Grand Junction has canceled it’s July 4 fireworks display due to dry conditions and in response to the Pine Ridge Fire. Also, the sale of fireworks within city limits has been banned.

The City’s fireworks supplier, Fireworks West International, has agreed to work with the City to potentially reschedule the fireworks display to a time later this year after the fire danger subsides.

Update 1:36 p.m.
A Sentinel reporter says flames continue to burn this afternoon on the hillside above the Colorado River in De Beque Canyon near mile marker 54 on Interstate 70, and that a coal train is sitting on the railroad tracks in Palisade, its cars uncoupled at every intersection with a street. That likely means the railroad tracks are shut down through De Beque Canyon.

Update 1:03 p.m.
Less thunderstorm activity this afternoon could give firefighters a break, although persistent hot and dry conditions are expected to boost the size of the fire.

Unlike Thursday, the Grand Valley and western Colorado today are not under a red flag warning, an advisory issued whenever warm temperatures, dry conditions and gusty winds have the chance to combine and create critical fire weather conditions. Paul Frisbie, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said any thunderstorm activity that could be accompanied by lightning and wind most likely will stay in the higher elevations.

“The fire weather conditions are less critical. That’s about the best way to put it,” Frisbie said. “There’s nothing really good, it’s just not as bad.”

Grand Junction’s high temperature is expected to hover around 100 degrees for the next several days.


Update 12:37 p.m.
A Daily Sentinel reporter in De Beque reports that many property owners in the evacuation area have their irrigation water turned on, a measure intended to try to ward off flames should the fire jump to the east side of Interstate 70. A resident in the evacuation area said she and her family stayed up all night to watch the fire as ash fell on their property.


Update 11:30 a.m.
The Mesa County Health Department is issuing a health advisory related to air quality because of the Pine Ridge Wildfire in the De Beque area.

Due to continuing wind and weather changes impacting the Pine Ridge Fire, the air quality in Mesa County is likely to change frequently throughout any day. Poor air quality could cause breathing difficulties for any person, but especially for people susceptible to respiratory conditions, according to the department.

In general, if you can see or smell smoke, it is recommended that you avoid outdoor physical activities. If visibility is decreased in your neighborhood to less than five miles, smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy, county officials said.


Update 10:30 a.m.
Fire officials will hold a media briefing on the Pine Ridge Fire today at 4:30 p.m. in De Beque.

Go to the pull-out north of the Kum and Go on the east side of the 45 Road near the “Welcome to De Beque” sign. (45 Road is the road into De Beque off the interstate.)

For more information, call 970 456-3623.


Update 10 a.m.
The BLM reports the fire has grown to 12,047 acres. A Type I incident team, which can access national resources, is scheduled to take command of firefighting efforts on Saturday.

About 35 oil and gas wells are in the affected area. Operators have shut-in the wells, which means they are not producing.

Update 8 a.m.
Bureau of Land Management officials report the fire did not cross I-70 last night and that keeping the fire contained to the west side of the interstate will remain a priority today. Closures of the interstate today remain a possibility.

A burnout operation on the northeast flank of the fire was successful yesterday. The burnout created a fire break between the fire and De Beque. Existing evacuation orders remain in place, however.

The fire is now five percent contained.

Update 7 a.m.
One lane of I-70 in each direction has been opened through De Beque Canyon.

Update 6:30 a.m.
One eastbound lane of I-70 has been reopened. Westbound lanes remain closed, starting at exit 62.



50 evacuations near De Beque as blaze grows

Companies closing gas wells near blaze


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