CASPER, Wyo. — Colorado has seen two of the state’s three largest wildfires ever recorded this year. The Pine Gulch Fire became the largest wildfire after burning 139,007 acres this summer, surpassing the the 2002 Hayman Fire which burned 138,114 acres.
While the Pine Gulch Fire is 100% contained, Colorado’s third largest wildfire ever is still burning in the northeastern part of the state. The Cameron Peak Fire has burned an estimated 134,960 acres and is 56% contained, according to a Tuesday, Oct. 13 update from Northwest Incident Management Team 6 posted to InciWeb.
The fire is located about two miles southwest of Red Feather Lakes and has 857 personnel assigned to firefighting efforts. It was first reported on Aug. 13 and the cause is under investigation.
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The fire saw some extreme wind conditions on Monday, according to the update.
“Firefighters near Comanche and Hourglass Reservoirs faced challenges due to extreme winds,” the update states. “There was isolated torching and the fire made a small wind-driven run to the east. While these afternoon winds prohibited safe direct attack on the fire, Monday saw little growth of the fire perimeter.”
Crews were able to successfully complete containment line along the fire’s northern perimeter, increasing overall containment to 56%.
“As a result of meeting an incident objective of containment in the north, the northern administrative branches of the fire were combined to “A/D” to the west and “F/L/R” to the north,” the update adds. “Fire crews in the area of Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp and CSU Mountain Campus continued to make improvements to structure protection and continued mop up.”
“In the areas of Pingree Park, Buckhorn and Monument Gulch, firefighters monitored and made improvements on structure protection. Along Long Draw Road and the Cache La Poudre Drainage, firefighters monitored and checked for new fire activity. At 3:22 p.m., Larimer County Sheriff’s Office lifted the voluntary evacuation status for Glacier View.”
More dry winds are expected on Tuesday, which will create near critical fire weather.
“Firefighters will continue to patrol and work on structure protection improvements in Monument Gulch and along Buckhorn Road,” the update adds. “Point protection and contingency planning will continue in the Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp, CSU Mountain Campus and Pingree Park areas. Aviation resources will continue to engage the fire when winds allow.”
“Today will also be the final day for NW Team 6 on the Cameron Peak Fire. The Rocky Basin Type 1 team is transitioning in with Team 6 and will be taking over command of the fire at 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 14th.”
The U.S. Forest Service activate a Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) team for the fire on Sept. 23.
“BAER surveys are rapid assessments that evaluate the burned area to identify watersheds having increased potential for post-fire flooding, erosion, debris flows and rockslides,” the Forest Service said in a release on InciWeb. “Since the BAER survey is a rapid assessment to assist land managers to prepare the burned area for future rain events, the team will initially focus on potential emergency impacts to life and safety on National Forest System lands and also share the team’s findings with partner agencies.”
“BAER teams consist of scientists and specialists, including hydrologists, soil scientists, engineers, botanists, biologists, archeologists and more. These teams collect data during their burned area surveys and present their findings and recommended emergency stabilization treatments or actions in a BAER assessment report. For additional information on what BAER is, check the announcement section of our InciWeb page.”
The Forest Service explains that there are three phases of recovery following a wildfire:
Fire Suppression Repair is a series of immediate post-fire actions taken to repair damages and minimize potential soil erosion and impacts resulting from fire suppression activities and usually begins before the fire is contained, and before the demobilization of an Incident Management Team. This work repairs the hand and dozer fire lines, roads, trails, staging areas, safety zones, and drop points used during fire suppression efforts.
Emergency Stabilization-Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) is a rapid assessment of burned watersheds by a BAER team to identify imminent post-wildfire threats to human life and safety, property, and critical natural or cultural resources on National Forest System lands and take immediate actions to implement emergency stabilization measures before the first post-fire damaging events. Fires result in loss of vegetation, exposure of soil to erosion, and increased water runoff that may lead to flooding, increased sediment, debris flows, and damage to critical natural and cultural resources. BAER actions such as: mulching, seeding, installation of erosion and water run-off control structures, temporary barriers to protect recovering areas, and installation of warning signs may be implemented. BAER work may also replace safety related facilities; remove safety hazards; prevent permanent loss of habitat for threatened and endangered species; prevent the spread of noxious weeds; and protect critical cultural resources.
Long-Term Recovery and Restoration utilizes non-emergency actions to improve fire-damaged lands that are unlikely to recover naturally and to repair or replace facilities damaged by the fire that are not critical to life and safety. This phase may include restoring burned habitat, reforestation, other planting or seeding, monitoring fire effects, replacing burned fences, interpreting cultural sites, treating noxious weed infestations, and installing interpretive signs.U.S. Forest Service