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Coal Seam Fire gains no new ground, now 45 percent contained

Donna Daniels

The Coal Seam Fire gained no new ground Saturday.

It is now 45 percent contained, chiefly on the southern portion of the fire south of Interstate 70 and the Colorado River, said fire information officer Jim Dale, of the Tennessee Division of Forestry.

To date, 11,838 acres have burned. Although the incident command team reported the fire had consumed 11,966 acres Friday, more refined mapping has lowered that number, Dale said.

Total costs of fighting the fire to date are $2.7 million, Dale said.

The Garfield County Assessor’s Office reported 32 structures were destroyed or suffered major damage and have an assessed value of $5.6 million, based on the June 2000 assessment.

A total of 460 fire personnel remain on the fire, including five hot shot crews of 100 persons, 11 other firefighting crews of 40 people as well as support and overhead fire management personnel, Dale said.

Equipment committed to fighting the fire includes two Type 1 heavy-duty helicopters that drop both fire retardant and water, one Type 2 helicopter, two Type 3 helicopters that carry smaller sling buckets, 22 engines, and seven bulldozers.

Two hot shot crews built fire line on the northeast edge of the fire between Cascade and Oasis creeks, and a seven-person helitack crew continued to work in that area as well, Dale said.

Saturday, single trees and small pockets of dead spruce and fir burned on the northwest side, Dale said.

That type of heavy fuel loading limits ability to contain the fire, Dale said.

“You never send firefighter into heavy fuels like that,” he said.

“We had a little wind event mid-afternoon with blowing ash and dust,” he said.

Today’s objective is to continue line construction on the north portion of the fire.

“A spike camp was established on the north side so we could run two shifts of crews to watch the situation overnight,” Dale said.

Today, “we’ll see continued fire spread in the northeast with short runs into No Name Creek.

“The fire will likely move north. One of our major concerns is the terrain is extremely steep, and there are large amounts of oakbrush, which is very flammable,” Dale said.

The Haines Index, which measures the potential for extreme fire behavior, is expected to reach its highest level of 6 today, Dale said.

Winds speeds are expected to be 10-18 miles per hour in the valleys, and higher on the ridge tops, he added.

“It’s unlikely we will meet all containment targets tomorrow. There’s quite a lot of work to be done,” he said.

Dale also said the coal seam on the east side of South Canyon was reportedly “smoking pretty good but is in no imminent danger of doing anything.”

All mandatory evacuations were lifted Friday morning by the Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri, although access to South Canyon is restricted to firefighting personnel and residents only.

Representatives of the Small Business Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of Colorado were working in the county to continue with damage assessments.

A Burn Areas Rehabilitation (BAER) Team is scheduled to begin work early next week. The team will be responsible for evaluating fire sites and reporting on what type of rehabilitation work will be necessary before fall and winter weather occurs.

The Red Cross shelter will remain open until everyone there has a place to go.

For more information about the fire, call the Fire Information Center at 947-1260, 1262 and 1269 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. For 24-hour information, call 947-1262.

Photos, maps and other information about the Coal Seam Fire is available on the Garfield County website, http://www.garfield-county.com.


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