Fire east of Buford Road grows in size, containment lost amid weather events

A hand crew works to dig a fire line on the Cabin Lake Fire south of the town of Buford on Monday.
Courtesy White River National Forest

Tuesday evening UPDATE — The Rio Blanco County Sheriff has issued a mandatory evacuation for all residents along County Road 10 south from the County Road 17 intersection, after the Cabin Lake Fire experienced “extreme fire behavior” late Tuesday.

A road block is in effect at this intersection, and residents in the area south of South Fork Road toward Burro Mountain southwest of County Road 10 also remain under mandatory evacuation, according to a Tuesday evening update from the fire management team.

A pre-evacuation warning for County Road 17 also remains in effect. No structures have been lost.

The fire burning 5.5 miles south of Buford has grown to 3,700 acres and is 35 percent contained.

“The fire is experiencing extreme fire conditions due to dry fuels and gusting 45 mph outflow winds from thunderstorm cells in the area,” according to the evening news release. “Extreme fire behavior is attributed to critically dry, heavy, dead and downed fuel conditions and gusty/erratic wind behavior.”

The fire is moving south and east through an old burn scar and has become established on the west side of the South Fork drainage. Tuesday’s fire activity resulted in a huge smoke column that stood over 23,000 feet high and was visible from Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, and Routt counties.

Late in the day Monday, a red flag warning was issued, bringing 25-45 mph wind gusts over the fire area.

“Weather, coupled with fire activity and the dry, heavy fuel conditions resulted in the need for firefighters to reassess tactics on some locations of the fire,” according to the update.

A combination of direct and indirect suppression tactics were being used by hand crews to try to secure and hold the northern perimeter of the fire, where some structures are being threatened.

Monday update: The Cabin Lake Fire burning east of the New Castle-to-Buford Road in southern Rio Blanco County has grown significantly due to recent wind events, prompting new pre-evacuation alerts for the area today.

The Rio Blanco Sheriff’s Office has issued a pre-evacuation notice for all residents along Rio Blanco County Road 10, south from the County Road 17 intersection. There remains a public closure of County Road 10 at that point, and all trailheads and campgrounds in the South Fork drainage on the Blanco Ranger District are now closed, according to an update from fire managers Monday afternoon.

At 11 p.m. Sunday, the fire burning 5.5 miles south of the town of Buford experienced gusty and erratic winds, which increased fire activity and pushed the fire north and east past Balloon Lake.

The Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office issued an emergency evacuation notice at 2 a.m. Monday to the residents in the area south of South Fork Road toward Burro Mountain southwest of County Road 10 using Rio Blanco Alerts and direct, door-to-door contacts.

“This part of the fire is now threatening structures, however no structures have been lost,” according to firefighting officials working with the White River National Forest. “Firefighters and engines patrolled and engaged the fire as safety allowed, throughout the night.”

“Public and firefighter safety and structure protection remain top priorities on the Cabin Lake Fire as multiple hand crews, engines, heavy machinery and aerial support continue to aggressively suppress the fire.”

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