Thunderstorms increase Pine Gulch Fire acreage to over 125,000 acres, CO’s 2nd largest wildfire on record

Local News

August 19th Pine Gulch Fire update from the fire’s incident management team:

During the overnight hours, the Pine Gulch Fire meteorologist notified night shift firefighters of a
thunderstorm cell moving over the fire and coming into alignment with terrain at the western fire edge. Strong outflow winds from this cell aligned with drainages in the Echo Lake area and gusted up to 40 mph over a three-to-four-hour period. While all firefighters were able to get to safety and endure this weather event, it created extreme and erratic fire behavior, causing significant growth.

The total acreage on the Pine Gulch Fire is now estimated to be just over 125,000. Fire behavior specialists report that 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 potential for similar thunderstorm cells to pass over the fire area this afternoon and into the night. Fire managers have planned to extend pre-identified primary and alternate control lines to the north and west of the fire. They will be utilizing Hwy 139 and the existing roads to the northwest and north of the fire perimeter (256, 207, 209). Firefighters have been successfully preparing these roads over the past several days in the event they were needed.
Firefighters will implement point protection on values that exist between the fire and the containment roads.

Reference this map’s when reading the incident report.

Today, Wednesday, Aug. 19th, crews on the west will work to secure the fire’s edge. If fire behavior necessitates and conditions allow, crews will perform burning operations to remove fuel ahead of the fire front. Air resources will support firefighters on the ground as weather permits. Structure protection groups will begin assessing structures to the west and north of the fire. Overall priorities remain on protecting values and choosing control options that provide for the highest probability of success given expected fire behavior.

Yesterday, Tuesday, Aug. 19th, in Division B on the south/southwest side, fire activity increased in Hunter Canyon. Fire behavior specialists note that this is beneficial; the fire will eliminate fuel and burn into natural features (the Hunter Fire burn scar and the Book Cliffs), thus containing itself. Crews have completed the indirect dozer line leading into the burn scar in this area. On the western side of Division B, fire became active yesterday, moving toward control lines. Firefighters utilized air
tankers to drop retardant, slowing the fire’s advance and allowing them to perform successful burning operations that removed fuel ahead of the fire front.

Firefighters’ work is proving effective in Divisions A and Z on the east of the fire, where control line remains solid. The fire along the eastern perimeter has not advanced for days, and the area remains in patrol and monitor status. Pockets of unburned fuel in the interior may burn more actively today, so smoke may still be visible on the east side. In Division K on the north, there is solid containment line running all along the north perimeter. Today, crews will improve this dozer line, plumb the area (lay down hoses and water supply) and begin mop-up efforts (using water and hand tools to continue cooling hot areas.)

Last night, the National Preparedness Level elevated to 5, the highest level, due to increasing fire activity across the country. This creates competition for resources. Pine Gulch Fire managers are strongly advocating for this fire’s needs. However, acquiring all needed resources remains a challenge.

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