GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Colorado’s largest wildfire in history, the Pine Gulch Fire, is now 79% contained. Over the last month the blaze has burned about 139,000 acres. Fire officials say there is still some fire activity in the southwest corner and northern perimeter, and they are keeping a close look on some hotspots, but firefighters are now more focused on repairing the damage.
Mark Jamieson, a fire operations chief, says, “after we got a good handle on the fire, making sure that it is going to stay out, then we have all the suppression repair work to do and fix the damage we did stopping the fire.”
In response, fire officials are moving some repair groups from the east side of the fire to the north, and hopefully, 256 Road will open in the next few days as well as people will be able to move safely back into their homes near Roan Creek.
The fire team is now working on removing control lines that are no longer needed. In addition, the team is putting in water bars to divert water on steep slopes in order to minimize any erosion hazards. The team is also fixing the creeks to make them as natural as possible.
Soon after, another team will come in to seed the area, and Jamieson says, “all the black area, I think you will be surprised once we get some rain. The green grass will come back fairly quickly.”
Still, there are some limitation. Fire officials say the speed of their work will depend on the accessibility of the area for the heavy equipment. For instance, the team will end up working slower in more rugged terrain.
And as the containment percentage increase, the number of people working on the Pine Gulch Fire has decreased. There are now about 680 people working on this fire. Each day fire officials are letting people leave to focus on other fires, but they say they still have enough people to not only repair the damage but react in case a fire sparks up in the area.