166-acre Gulch Fire is still smoldering
Summit Daily News
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Summit County and federal firefighters continue to battle an estimated 166-acre wildfire that broke out at the site of a logging operation in Keystone Gulch Thursday afternoon.
Crews were able to keep the blaze under control overnight Thursday and Friday, but at press time were dealing with a multitude of “smoldering hotspots.”
A helicopter brought in Friday helped crews control the blaze, but no containment estimates have been released yet.
“The fire has not grown from where it was last night,” federal incident management team spokesman David Boyd said Friday evening. “But it’s not out. The weather gave us a break today. There were some winds, but no where near yesterday’s conditions. Boots on the ground, the helicopter dropping water and a break in the weather all helped us.”
An additional 40 firefighters from two highly-trained teams are expected to join the 40 firefighters already at the Gulch today.
Initial estimates put the fire at approximately 20 acres, but as the smoke cleared Friday crews were able to walk the general perimeter of the blaze and get a more accurate estimate of the size. Fire safety officials said the fire likely has not consumed all the land within the approximately 166-acre perimeter.
Initial speculation that the blaze may have been started in connection with logging operations in the Gulch Thursday afternoon was squelched Friday with reports that logging crews were not in fact working in the area when the fire broke out.
Officials said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but they do not suspect it was malicious or intentional.
Flames were first reported in the Gulch near Keystone ranch at approximately 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Strong easterly winds throughout the afternoon quickly whipped the blaze toward the Keystone Resort boundary.
Four homes at the base of the Gulch initially appeared to be in serious danger Thursday afternoon and 20 residents were evacuated, but the structures were protected by proactive efforts by firefighters and the wind direction. The people evacuated were able to return home by approximately 9 p.m. Thursday.
The blaze remains approximately half a mile from the resort, and officials say there is no immediate risk that it will reach Keystone boundaries.
Though the ski area was not at risk, the resort did gear up snow-making equipment Thursday, which can be used to douse the blaze if it gets close.
“We can dump a lot of water on it very quickly,” Keystone Resort spokesman Ryan Whaley said. “It’s not threatening the resort at this time, but if it does we’re ready to rock.”
The break in trees on groomed runs also act as natural barriers to wildfires.
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