Ongoing long term drought and current warm, windy, Red Flag warning weather conditions have combined to ignite the start to an active wildfire season in the Rocky Mountain state. Over 100-thousand acres of Colorado has been charred by wildfire so far this season and summer isn’t even a week old. Stage One Fire alerts have now been designated by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service for public land across the Western Slope and several municipalities, like Gunnision, have enacted similar restrictions.
The biggest of the big burns raging right now continues to be the West Fork Complex which consists of three separate wildfires essentially burning in the areas between Creede, South Fork, and Wolf Creek Pass. The complex of fires, now over 75-thousand acres strong, has forced the evacuation of approximately 400-South Fork residents and caused the U.S. Postal Service to relocate its mail operations from South Fork to Del Norte, 14-miles to the east. All South Fork customers will need to show a picture ID to retrieve their mail in Del Norte. This affects roughly 1600 postal customers.
The East Fork fire has not grown much since the weekend but continues to burn in tinder-dry conditions along the Little Cimarron Creek drainage. The fire is located 30-miles Southeast of Montrose in precipitous and rugged topography. Fire Information Officer Rick Barton says the 400-plus acre size fire remains hot, active, and virtually impossible for fire fighters to reach in some locations.
Barton says one of the challenges facing personnel attempting to thwart the spread of flames is a series of spot fires triggered by the initial blaze.
Barton adds that there are some cabins in the area, mostly used seasonally by hunters that fire fighters are forming a line to protect. The Sheriff’s Office assisted with issuing pre-evacuation orders to the cabin owners. There are nearly a hundred personnel assigned to fighting the East Fork Fire, including several Smoke Jumpers and three Hot Shot crews.