Residents displaced by Rifle fire return to homes

Residents of 12 evacuated homes along Colorado Highway 325 north of Rifle were allowed back on their property late Sunday.

The Ward Gulch Fire, which has burned 485 acres, was 60 percent contained. 

More firefighters arrived on scene Sunday, boosting their numbers to more than 300.

A brief rainshower Sunday also helped tamp down the blaze, but more moisture is needed, said spokesman Pat Thrasher.

“I would say at this point the leadership is cautiously optimistic,” Thrasher said about fully containing the fire quickly. “What would really help us is the relative humidity. It will lose some of its momentum.”

Thrasher said he couldn’t say when the fire is expected to be 100 percent contained, but he reported firefighting efforts seemed to be working well Sunday.

Gusty winds did not return Sunday.

The fire is burning north of Rifle Gap and west of Colorado Highway 325.

The highway is closed to general traffic, as are Rifle Mountain Park, Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery and Rifle Falls State Park. Rifle Gap Reservoir remains open, but boating is prohibited because helicopters are pickup up water there.

Trasher said the American Red Cross provided a shelter for displaced residents, but all evacuees opted either to stay with friends and family in the area or to stay in a hotel.

The fire apparently started Thursday night by lightning, is burning on Bureau of Land Management land.


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