Blaze tops 11,000-acre mark
The Coal Seam Fire topped 11,000 acres Tuesday, growing by about 1,500 acres with northeasterly runs in the Flat Tops.Fire crews aren’t trying to stop the forward edge of the fire, but are working hard to “anchor and flank” areas where the fire has already burned.”Would you want to stand out in front of that fire? I sure wouldn’t,” said Dick Spiess, structure protection specialist for the Type I fire management team.”But we do need to anchor and flank. We don’t want uncontrolled fire behind that.”So ground crews are using bulldozers, chain saws and hand tools to create an inflammable path around the fire’s perimeter to prevent remaining hot spots from spreading outside the boundary.In some places, crews are also using fire to the same effect.Crews set back fires on the southwest corner of the blaze, near Horse Mountain above South Canyon, burning about 50 acres, said fire information officer Justin Dombrowski.”It’s putting up a lot of smoke,” he said.Crews built fire line Tuesday in the Three Mile and South Canyon areas of the fire, Dombrowski said.”Things were going well for the crews today,” he said.”We lost no fire line,” Spiess said Tuesday evening. “The fire did spread, but only in areas where we did not have control established.” And incident commander Steve Hart reopened lower Three Mile, allowing evacuated residents back in. The Three Mile closure now starts at the bottom of the switchbacks.The evacuation order still stands for upper Three Mile, including the Mountain Springs Ranch, and for South Canyon. All homes in those areas remain intact, said Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri.Two new firefighting crews were added to the force Tuesday, bringing the total up to three Hot Shot crews and eight Type II crews, he said.Meanwhile, four of the five air tankers and one helicopter fighting the fire were diverted to a new fire near Wolcott, which flared up Tuesday afternoon, said air operations director Jim Johnson.”Our No. 1 priority remains controlling areas where structures are threatened,” Johnson said. “Our intention is to support the ground operations.”The fire remains officially 5 percent contained, he said.A team of fire experts spent much of Tuesday searching through the blackened rubble at Cardnell Ranch and in the homes and buildings that burned Saturday to make sure no one was caught in the fire blowup.Dalessandri reported that no human remains were found, which coincides with the fact that no one has been reported missing.Dalessandri said the sheriff’s department did hear repeated rumors that a teenage girl was missing, but he received word today that she returned to her family.Dombrowski also reported:-Firefighters have been building a hand line immediately north of West Glenwood neighborhoods and mopping up the flare-ups from Monday.-The Bureau of Land Management office in West Glenwood would remain closed through Thursday because of smoke damage.-No Name, Grizzly Creek and Transfer trails remain closed until further notice. Hanging Lake, however, is open.-The bridge to the South Canyon boat ramp was burned and the boat launch is closed until further notice.-National Guard were demobilized and returned to their former duties, and many law enforcement officers from agencies around the state called in to help with security were also let go.”We continue to provide 24-hour security” to evacuated and burned structures, Dalessandri said.The sheriff’s department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency completed a damage assessment of destroyed homes Tuesday.”We visited the homes with the owners in the burned out areas,” Dalessandri said.
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