2 wildfires in Rio Blanco County reported contained
Two big fires in the region are now fully contained, while crews also reported good progress Monday on blazes east of Ridgway and north of Rifle.
The Wild Rose Fire has been 100 percent contained at 1,067 acres in far southwestern Rio Blanco County, and the Collins Fire in the Piceance Creek area southwest of Meeker has been contained at 388 acres, said Bill Kight, spokesman for the fires.
“Against the strong winds we had (Monday) everything held, and that’s what we hoped for and prepared for, so we’re quite happy,” Kight said.
The fires are being handed back over to the Bureau of Land Management’s White River Field Office to monitor, with resources being released to other fires, and road closures and an Encana natural gas plant closure that resulted from the fires have been lifted.
About 250 firefighters are battling the 415-acre East Fork Fire several miles from Silver Jack Reservoir in the Uncompahgre National Forest, and containment remained at 0 percent Monday.
Nevertheless, winds didn’t reach ground level on the fire Monday, meaning the fire activity was generally limited to its interior.
“The fire has not been moving (Monday) like it’s been moving,” said spokesman Rick Barton.
The lack of containment is due to the inability to build fire line directly against the fire due to steep, inaccessible terrain and dangerous conditions. However, crews have been building contingency lines a mile or two away, connecting safe areas such as open meadows, with the expectation that these lines will hold the fire if it spreads, he said.
Pre-evacuation notices have been issued for 35 structures, but Barton said he thinks only two of those are occupied year-round. Crews continue to work on structure protection.
The Forest Service has closed certain roads and trails in the area, with closure points being at the forest boundary at Big Cimarron Road, Owl Creek Pass and the junction of Little Cimarron and High Mesa Road. The Big Cimarron, Beaver Creek and Silver Jack campgrounds also are closed.
Stage One restrictions went into effect Monday for the Gunnison and Uncompahgre national forests, with restrictions such as general prohibitions against campfires outside developed campgrounds.
About 150 firefighters were at the 400-acre Brush Creek Fire about 10 miles north of Rifle, where fire lines continued to hold despite the wind and heat of recent days.
“These last several afternoons have really been testing the lines, and the firefighters with the help of the helicopters have been able to hold the lines and strengthen them,” said fire spokesman David Boyd on Monday.
A partial closure of Rifle Gap Reservoir to boating remains in place so helicopters can draw water there for the fire.
Steep terrain on the fire’s northern flank continues to be a challenge for firefighters, due to dangers such as rolling logs and other burning material that can start new spot fires.