Firefighters Pine Gulch

Firefighters monitor night activity on the Pine Gulch wildfire north of Grand Junction.

By Mckenzie Moore

Staff Writer

With fires and drought conditions throughout the state developing rapidly, numbers and restrictions can change on an hourly basis. Here is the most up-to-date information as of Aug. 25 at 10 a.m., as well as resources to find even more updates and information.

Wildfires

The Pine Gulch Fire, burning about 18 miles north of Grand Junction, has burned 134,999 acres as of Tuesday morning, with 47% containment. There are currently 907 personnel working to contain the fire. The fire was first reported on July 31 at about 5:15 p.m. and is believed to have been caused by lightning.

The Grizzly Creek Fire, burning about a mile east of Glenwood Springs, has burned 32,060 acres as of Tuesday morning, with 44% containment. 775 personnel are currently working to contain the fire. The Grizzly Creek fire began on Aug. 10 and the cause is currently unknown.

More detailed information, including regular updates on all fires throughout the country can be found at inciweb.nwcg.gov.

Smoke Outlook

Delta County is under an air advisory warning due to smoke as of Aug. 24, along with many other parts of western and central Colorado as smoke from nearby wildfires settles in surrounding communities. However, according to the USFS Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program, smoke is starting to clear due to reduced fire activity and potential wind gusts on Aug. 25 could help clear out some of the smoke (provided they do not cause increased fire growth).

“If smoke is thick or becomes thick in your neighborhood, you may want to remain indoors. This is especially true for those with heart disease, respiratory illnesses, the very young and the elderly,” stated the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). “Consider limiting outdoor activity when moderate to heavy smoke is present. Consider relocating temporarily if smoke is present indoors and is making you ill. If visibility is less than five miles in smoke in your neighborhood, smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy.”

According to the CDPHE Smoke Outlook, the North Fork Valley is projected to have the highest smoke density in the county on Aug. 25. Multiple Delta County residents have also reported falling ash.

More information on smoke and air quality can be found at colorado.gov/airquality/colo_smoke.aspx.

Road Closures

As of Monday morning, Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon has been reopened on a limited basis. Drivers should expect slower speeds and should not stop while passing through the area due to dangers around mudslides and falling rocks. Rest areas are also closed.

Colorado 139 (Douglas Pass) is closed in both directions between Mile Point 6 and 39 due to fire activity from the Pine Gulch Fire. There is currently no anticipated time for reopening, according to CDOT.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) will continue to monitor road conditions. Updates can be found at cotrip.org.

Drought Conditions

According to the United States drought monitor, Delta County is currently under D3, or “extreme drought” conditions. Under extreme drought, “pasture conditions worsen, city landscapes are dying, large fires develop, rafting, fishing, hunting, skiing are reduced and fish kills occur, grasshopper and insect infestation are noted, reservoirs are extremely low, mandatory water restrictions are implemented and water temperature increases.”

According to the United States Drought Portal, 99% of the state’s population is in drought, with the remaining one percent in abnormally dry areas.

Updates on drought conditions can be found at droughtmonitor.unl.edu.

Restrictions

As of Aug. 20, Delta County has implemented Stage 1 fire restrictions, which apply to unincorporated areas of the county and do not include municipalities. The Delta County specific fire ban prohibits all open fires, including agricultural burning, campfires, warming fires, prescribed burning, fused explosives or fireworks of any kind. A statewide fire ban is also in place, which prohibits all “open ignition” such as campfires, fireworks and explosives. The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) are also under Stage 1 fire restrictions.

The Town of Hotchkiss has enacted water usage restrictions as of Aug. 18, and both Crawford and Paonia have implemented voluntary water restrictions.

The Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has county-by-county information, which can be found at coemergency.com/p/fire-bans-danger.html.

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