Crews gain in battle against wildfire southwest of Gateway

About a dozen Gateway residents left a community meeting Tuesday night relieved after hearing that firefighters may be able to finish the northern part of a perimeter around the Sunrise Mine wildfire to the south.

The fire was sparked Friday night on Bureau of Land Management land near the Sunrise Mine southwest of Gateway and had grown to more than 5,300 acres by Tuesday. By nightfall, the blaze was almost 50 percent contained. However, hot, dry and windy conditions expected for today could be challenging, said Rich Harvey, commander of the Rocky Basin Two Incident Management Team, the agency coordinating about 400 firefighters, some of whom came from various parts of the country.

The blaze has been the most difficult to fight along its western edge, Harvey said. That area, Rock Creek, is rugged terrain and extends into Utah.

If winds today come from the southwest, as they usually do, the fire should be blown back on itself, he said.

“This is a good opportunity for us to make hay,” Harvey told the crowd at the Gateway Community Center.

Fifteen structures were threatened by the fire Tuesday, many of those in the Sinbad Valley Ranch area. However, fire managers kept tabs on the blaze. Homes in that area have been outfitted with structure protection and homeowners are heavily irrigating the area.

One local resident heard that a home had burned in the Sinbad Valley Ranch area, but fire managers assured her no structures have burned.

“We really want to make sure that there aren’t rumors that someone’s house is burning down,” said Catherine Robertson, manager of the BLM field office in Grand Junction.

Robertson also told residents they were welcome to approach and ask questions of fire managers at any of the command stations, including the tent city of firefighters and staff that have converged near Gateway Canyons Resort.

The fire was burning mostly on national forest land but also south and north onto BLM land. The fire was most aggressive to the north near Mesa County and to the west near Grand County, Utah.

The fire had cost almost $516,000, and there were about 550 firefighters and staff working in the region. Harvey said crews estimated full containment by Sunday.

Because the blaze is believed to have originated on BLM land in the southern part of the fire, that agency is responsible for investigating the cause of the fire, Robertson said.

Fourteen fire crews, seven engines, five helicopters and one water tender were working to contain the fire. Buckeye Reservoir Road, R1 Road and John Brown Road are still closed.

Residents seeking updated fire information can call the fire hotline at 240-1070.


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