Pine Gulch Fire in Colorado remapped to 121 781 acres, the second-largest in history of the state


A wildfire caused by lightning on July 31, 2020, about 29 km (18 miles) north of Grand Junction, Colorado has spread to 49 283 ha (121 781 acres) by August 20, 2020. Since rapid spread on August 19, this is the second-largest wildfire in the state's history.

Fire growth was minimal overnight Thursday, August 20, and more accurate mapping has now shown the total fire area to be 49 283 ha (121 781 acres), as opposed to the formerly reported 50 626 ha (125 100 acres).

The fire grew more than 15 000 ha (37 000 acres) overnight Wednesday, August 19, surpassing Spring Creek Fire of 2018 (43 724 ha / 108 045 acres) and becoming the state's second-largest fire in history. The fourth-largest Colorado wildfire on record is now High Park Fire (2012) at 35 322 ha (87 284 acres). Hayman Fire of 2002 remains the largest at 55 749 ha (137 760 acres).

Firefighters have made significant progress on the north and east sides today, bringing the total containment to 14%.

Today’s main concern will be storm cells moving over the fire area from around 12:00 LT to midnight and producing gusty outflow winds up to 72 km/h (45 mph).

These winds could contribute to extreme fire behavior and active spread with potential for spotting. Along with storm concerns, the inversion is expected to break early – approximately 12:00 LT – creating further instability in the atmosphere.

Today, crews will be working on both primary and alternate pre-identified control lines. On the south side at the Division B/A break, fire is moving slowly toward a solid dozer line that extends into the Hunter Fire burn scar.

Fire behavior in this area and in the rest of Division B was limited yesterday, but it could be more significant today and tonight because of incoming weather.

A total of 872 firefighters are battling extreme fire behavior. The combination of extremely dry fuels, low relative humidity, high temperatures, and terrain driven winds may continue to create extreme fire behavior that is resistant to suppression efforts.

There is Red Flag Warning today for dry lightning and outflow winds, and a chance of thunderstorms after 14:00 LT with lighting and outflow winds up to 72 km/h (45 mph). Thunderstorm development is most likely to the northwest of the fire.

The hot and dry weather will continue as high pressure remains the dominant weather feature, with temperatures as high as 35 °C (95 °F) and humidity at 12-14%. Winds will be northerly at 15 – 20 km/h (9 – 12 mph) with gusts to 32 km/h (20 mph). The southwest side of the fire could see south/southwest winds again today.

An evacuation order is in effect for Garfield County: 4A Ridge Road (256), Salt Wash (205), King Road (258), Clear Creek Road (211), Carr Creek Road (207), and Kimball Creek Road (202). A pre-evacuation order is in effect for all residents of Garfield County west of CO-139 to the Utah border, and any formerly evacuated residents remain in pre-evacuation.

Image credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, Antonio Vecoli

There are currently 4 major wildfires currently burning in Colorado. Together they have scorched more than 70 820 ha (175 000 acres).

The Grizzly Creek Fire burning in Glenwood Canyon is currently at 12 032 ha (29 732 acres) and is 4% contained. The fire forced the closure of Interstate 70. The Cameron Peak Fire in western Larimer County scorched 6 661 ha (16 461 acres) and is now fully suppressed. The fourth fire is the Williams Fork Fire in Grand County which is now at 3 827 ha (9 457 acres) and only 3% contained.

Pine Gulch fire – August 2020. Credit: InciWeb

Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced a ban on campfires, fireworks, and other open sources of ignition for at least 30 days.

"Since fires are often between counties and between jurisdictions, this will help reduce all of our risks," Polis said.

"As we've said before during coronavirus, and Coloradans have been successful, now is not the time to party. We add to that now, that now is not the time to have campfires or fireworks."

Featured image credit: InciWeb

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