Colorado wildfires: Rain, cooler temps help crews battling fires across the state

Crews battling Colorado wildfires got help Friday and Saturday from cooler temperatures and rainy conditions. They are working to build containment lines while the weather cooperates.

Here are the latest updates from fires burning across the state:

Oil Springs fire

Recent rainfall created muddy conditions for firefighters battling the 12,707-acre blaze south of Rangely, but crews on Saturday were still able to access the fire safely.

The Rio Blanco Sheriff’s office said Saturday morning that two-tenths to four-tenths of an inch of rain fell in a 24-hour period, which helped fire conditions. However, as the chance for rain diminishes, deputies said the fire has the potential to intensify again as temperatures increase and fuels dry out.

“Although rain reduced fire activity, there are still areas of concern that will require continued firefighter attention,” deputies said in a news release Saturday.

On Saturday, firefighters planned to continue working on securing containment lines and protecting the Dragon Trail Compressor Site, which was listed as a priority.

Deputies said 237 fire personnel were working the fire, which was sparked June 18 by lightning, and was 8% contained as of Saturday morning.

Crews on Saturday planned to focus on the northwestern flank of the fire, which stretches from county road 116 to Texas Mountain. They were using a helicopter to access the southwestern portion of the fire, which is within the Oil Springs Wilderness Study area and couldn’t be reached by roads.

There was also a spot fire between East Douglas Creek and Willow Creek, but that was contained, and deputies said crews planned to monitor it.

The sheriff’s office said crews continued mop-up work along Colorado 139, along West Creek drainage and county road 116.

Colorado 139 was reopened Saturday, although county roads 113 and 116 were still closed. Drivers were asked to use caution and travel at reduced speeds in the area because fire crews are using the state highway to access the blaze.

Muddy Slide fire

Officials said about a quarter-inch of rain and hail fell Friday on the 4,150-acre fire, about 18 miles west of Kremmling. But despite the progress, the U.S. Forest Service  expects this to be a “long duration event.”

“The recent rain and cool temperatures have given firefighters a temporary advantage, but live and dead vegetation are both exceptionally dry,” officials said. “The weather is forecast to turn warm and dry once again, which will support a return to active fire behavior.”

A mandatory evacuation remained in place Saturday along the west side of the fire, along Morrison Creek.

Information boards were being set up in the area Saturday, and crews planned to use air support to dip and scoop water from a reservoir in nearby Stagecoach State Park, north of the fire.

Officials said 186 personnel are assigned to the fire, which is burning spruce and fir at higher elevations and beetle-killed lodgepole pine at the valley floor. Crews on Saturday planned to continue work building firelines in the cooler weather.

Crews also planned to protect structures along Routt County Road 16. Meanwhile, scouts had identified “additional possibilities” for crews to fight the fire, and fire managers were evaluating those opportunities Saturday.

The cause of the fire, which started June 20, is under investigation.

Sylvan fire

Rain was a welcome ally in the fight against the 3,775-acre Sylvan fire, about 15 miles south of Eagle.

Dan Dallas, the incident commander for the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team, said in a news release that about one-tenth of an inch of precipitation fell on the area Friday, helping crews make significant progress in building firelines.

“Although the containment percentage remains at zero, that does not mean that good work is not being accomplished on the ground,” the news release said. “A section of fireline is not called contained until fire supervisors are confident the fire will not cross it. More work needs to be done to fully secure and monitor the lines, but look for containment to start increasing in the coming days.”

Currently, 264 personnel were working the Sylvan fire, which started June 20. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Crews were continuing to work on firelines from Sylvan Lake west toward a power line road. To the south of Sylvan Lake, supervisors were trying to determine if they should use a road, stream or power line corridor as the primary fire containment line.

“In either case they are preparing for a technically complex firing operation to remove fuels between the fire edge and control lines,” the news release said. That operation could take about four days, officials said.

Officials said some areas along the fire’s edge are too steep, inaccessible and unsafe for fire crews. Those areas are being monitored and fire officials only plan to take action there if necessary.

In the northwest part of the fire, crews are using utility vehicles to access the blaze via primitive existing roads.

“The past two days of precipitation have markedly reduced fire behavior, but heavy fuels such as down logs remain dry,” the release said. Officials worried that fire conditions could worsen as the week progresses and warmer, dryer conditions take over.

Wildfire map

Click markers for details, use buttons to change what wildfires are shown. Map data is automatically updated by government agencies and could lag real-time events. Incident types are numbered 1-5 — a type 1 incident is a large, complex wildfire affecting people and critical infrastructure, a type 5 incident is a small wildfire with few personnel involved. Find more information about incident types at the bottom of this page.

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