GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Fire officials say the Pine Gulch Fire just passed the 139,000 acre mark. This fire has surpassed the total burned acreage of the Hayman Fire of 2002. The Hayman burned 137,760 acres and was the largest wildfire in Colorado’s history. That title now appears to have been passed on to The Pine Gulch Fire.
For the past month, firefighters have worked day and night fighting the flames, and they have successfully built control lines that have slowed the growth of the blaze. Still, the fire team has resources on the north perimeter of the fire. According to Tim Daly, a fire operations member, the north remains a high priority for the fire team in order to make sure that the control lines are secure.
In addition, the weather continues to work in the firefighters’ favor. The humidity is higher and the temperature is cooler at night. Therefore, according to Jacob Welsh, from the Pine Gulch Fire team, there is less activity in the mountains. He says, “we are not seeing those big plumes of smoke that we have seen in previous days. Our smoke output has decreased, which means smoke in the area has decreased as well.”
Chris Knoll, KREX’s Noon meteorologist, agreed in his forecast today that the air quality in the Grand Valley has improved. He said, “we are in the green, but there is still some smoke in close proximity to these fires.”
Near Highway 139, the fire team says there has been minimal fire activity, but last night, the winds caused some more burning, and therefore, the winds caused some more smoke.
Still, health officials say the overall air quality has improved. Thomas Orr, an epidemiologist, says, “that means you can get back outside and do that exercise that we were advising people not to do when the particulars in the air were so high.”
Fire officials also say the team is less focused on fighting the Pine Gulch Fire since they have secured most of the perimeter. Instead, the team is now focused more on moving the equipment out of the secure areas to other areas or getting the equipment ready for a future fire.
KREX 5 News and FOX4 News will have more information on the Pine Gulch Fire has it becomes available.