Fire north of Rifle Gap grows, threatens structures

A wildfire about three miles north of Rifle Gap Reservoir has grown quickly this afternoon to at least 40 acres and is threatening two structures.

Firefighters “anticipate that it’s going to grow fairly actively this afternoon,” said fire spokeswoman Lee Ann Loupe.

The Ward Gulch Fire is believed to have been sparked by a lightning storm that hit the Rifle area Thursday evening and ignited trees in numerous areas. One of those strikes grew into the Beaver Creek Fire seven miles southwest of Rifle, which burned seven to 10 acres. Loupe said that fire is expected be contained by 6 p.m. today.

Strong winds helped fan both fires.

Two single-engine air tankers are dropping retardant on the Ward Gulch Fire, and two 20-person hand crews are en route, along with four engines from the Upper Colorado Interagency Fire Management Center.

Loupe said she’s not aware of any road closures in the area, but officials are encouraging people to stay away from it for their own safety and that of firefighters.

The Beaver Creek Fire is on Bureau of Land Management land and the Ward Gulch Fire is believed to have started on BLM land.

Loupe said officials continue to receive smoke reports from some of the lightning strikes. Officials took reports of two strikes on the Roan Plateau and one off state Highway 13 north of Rifle Thursday night but couldn’t locate them at the time due to darkness and the need to focus on the Beaver Creek Fire.


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