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Firefighters labor on among tricky conditions in Flat Tops

Donna Daniels
Staff Writer

Firefighters continue to concentrate their efforts on the northern portion of the Coal Seam Fire where single trees are still catching fire and small pockets of unburned spruce and fir continue to burn.

Three hotshot crews who are camped out near Windy Point and eight fire engines are tackling burning spruce and fir, said fire information officer David Olson.

Four crews constructed fire line with hand tools and bulldozers at the top of Oasis Creek.

Olson said a primary concern now is the safety of the firefighters who are fighting fire in dead and down spruce and fir.

“One of the real issues with the fire is the dead standing and dead and down material that is so prime for burning,” he said. Burning snags, or partly fallen dead trees, “are one of the real fears of firefighters.”

The Coal Seam Fire now totals 12,105 acres and is 87 percent contained, Olson said. The cost of the fire rose to $5 million Tuesday.

A total of 557 firefighters and support crew remain on the fire. The Colorado National Guard assisted with transporting fire equipment to the northern end of the fire, Olson said.

More helicopters were called into service transporting crews to the fire and for water and slurry drops.

A few stubborn hot spots remain on the south half of the fire just south of Interstate 70. They were identified through heat mapping by helicopter. Such pinpoint locating allows crews to be flown directly to the sites.

Rehabilitation of the southern fire line is now under way. A Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation team is now on the ground inspecting burned out areas south of the interstate. The team will evaluate the entire fire area and will determine what measures will need to be taken to reduce the threat of mudslides and flooding due to loss of vegetation (see story, page 7).

Tuesday, air temperatures continued to be in the high 90s with very low relative humidity of around 5 percent in the lower elevations. Fire danger remains extremely high and people are encouraged to be very careful with flammable material and to obey current fire restrictions.

South Canyon Road and the city landfill are now open to the public.

For 24-hour recorded fire information call 947-1269, or visit http://www.garfield-county.com.


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