Two local wildfires will make for hazy skies

By Press release


The Grand Valley Ranger District of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests has two fires burning on National Forest System lands. These fires were detected in the evening of June 14 and are the result of lightning.


The "Kelso" fire, is located on Kelso Mesa, approximately 40 miles south of Grand Junction. The fire is burning in a remote, fairly inaccessible location. Currently about 16 acres in size, the Kelso fire is burning in ponderosa pine, oak brush and manzanita brush.

This fire is being managed under a "confine and contain" suppression strategy, meaning the fire will be managed to burn within predetermined, defensible area boundaries. The maximum boundary established for this fire entails 4,000 acres; however, this includes wetlands, stands of aspen trees and rocky outcrops within and adjacent to the established perimeter that are unlikely to burn. The values of concern include an important fisheries in Kelso Creek and private lands in proximity to the fire. The private lands are protected by large, wet aspen stands and irrigated hay fields, in addition to firefighter activities. Firefighters will be taking suppression action to limit spread toward these values.
Firefighting resources assigned to this fire include a qualified type 5 incident commander (ICT5) and an ICT5 trainee, as well as, the Storm Peak Wildland Fire Module (10 firefighters).

The other fire is named the "Pitch" fire and is burning approximately 20 miles southwest of Grand Junction. This fire is being managed under a "confine and contain" suppression strategy as well. The values of concern in this area include culturally important trees; sage grouse habitat and adjacent private lands. Managing this fire within a confined area will help to reduce brushy vegetation (fuels) that have built up in the understory; reduce the threat of future wildfire to adjacent private lands; improve big game wildlife habitat and mimic historic fire patterns in the ponderosa pine.

The fire is about 3 acres in size and burning in ponderosa pine, grass and manzanita. The objectives to manage this fire are to: keep the fire south of the Unaweep Canyon Rim and west of OHV trail #665, and north of National Forest System Road #417. These boundaries form a defensible perimeter to protect private property, sage grouse habitat and culturally scarred trees (from Native American historic use).
Fire-fighting resources assigned to this fire include the Skyway Fire Module (7 fire-fighters), Engine #663 and the Veteran's Fire Crew (7 firefighters), as well as qualified type 4 incident command leader (ICT4) and an ICT4 trainee. Fire managers expect to do additional burning throughout the weekend to enforce the perimeter boundaries and to protect important resources. Fire managers expect that this fire will be controlled by the end of the weekend.

The public is asked to stay out of these areas for their own safety and for the safety of firefighters. Signing and temporary road closures have been placed at the inter-section of the Divide Road with National Forest System Roads #417 and NFSR #402.1(a).

Smoke from these fires is anticipated to be visible from Highway 50 and in Delta, Montrose and Grand Junction throughout the weekend. Persons with sensitivities to smoke are advised to take precautions to stay indoors and/or make other accommodations should smoke from these fires and other fires across the nation present diminished air quality. Fire smoke may affect your health. For more information see https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wood-smoke-and-health.

When managing any wildland fire, the most important consideration is safety of the firefighters, the public and private property. These concerns are reflected in the strategies to manage these two fires and will guide current and future management decisions and actions.