MESA COUNTY, Colo.- At a briefing Wednesday, Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Black reported the Pine Gulch Fire has grown to over 9,200 acres, and remains at 5 percent containment.
On Tuesday the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Black took over handling this fire from the Upper Colorado River Type 3 Team. A type 2 wildfire team has more personnel and resources at its disposal for handling larger wildfires. A spokesperson for the Rocky Mountain Incident agency says there are now over 230 firefighters working on the fire with 18 fire engines, along with multiple aircraft, and that number is expected to grow.
“We were assigned this fire to take it over from the Upper Colorado River organization because of the complexity of the fire and the fire increasing in fire activity,” said Ronda Scholtin, a public information officer for Rocky Mountain Team Black.
The Team Black operations chief for the Pine Gulch Fire says a fire of this nature could get up to as large as 15,000 acres but he says that’s not for certain, and it will all be based on conditions.
“Fuels are incredibly dry and a lot of it is really weather dependent,” said operations chief Tom Barter. “There’s not much moisture in the forecast so it’s just really hard to tell.”
Barter says the intensity of this fire has caused authorities to back down from fighting the blaze directly, and prepare surrounding roads for a ‘burnout’ or purposefully burning dry vegetation around the fire perimeter so the fire has less fuel to burn and expand.
“We’re not able to go as what we call ‘direct on it,’ Barter said. “We’re backing off and we’re trying to use roads around it. The fire activity is dictating, we can’t get right next to it.”
There is a road closure in place on Mesa County Road X 1/2 after High Lonesome Ranch (275 County Road 222) to prevent nonessential traffic from entering the fire area. The image below shows some of the roads surrounding the area of the fire.
The area also is remote enough where firefighters have time to try and divert the fire from nearby structures. Barter says crews are working tirelessly to prepare nearby structures to avoid the blaze.
“There are no evacuations. There are about 14 structures threatened at this time, none have been lost.”
Barter also says the fire is likely to move northeast given current wind conditions.
Rocky Mountain Team Black also reports that there are several natural gas wells in the area of the fire. But they have been shut down, and the fire has either not reached them, or burned around them without further issues. Firefighters reportedly did mitigation work in and around the wells before the fire reached them.