Fire near Rifle almost contained, Highway 325 to reopen
The Ward Gulch Fire northeast of Rifle was expected to be sufficiently contained by Monday night that officials were planning to reopen Colo. Highway 325 to the public.
“We had a very good day on the line today,” said Pat Thrasher, chief information officer for the fire.
At about 6 p.m. Monday, he said fire officials were predicting 85 percent containment by the end of Monday’s shift. And that was despite heavy winds hitting the fire Monday afternoon.
Thrasher said officials are urging the public to be cautious when using Highway 325 because fire personnel and equipment are still on road.
By Tuesday, boat use will be restored to most of Rifle Gap Reservoir as well, though the far west end of the impoundment will remain closed as helicopters use it to fill water buckets to fight the fire.
Rifle Falls State Park and the Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery are also reopening to day use, Thrasher said, but overnight use at the park is still not permitted.
He did not know if the decision had been made to reopen Rifle Mountain Park.
The Ward Gulch Fire started from a lightning strike last Thursday but didn’t flare up until Friday afternoon, when it exploded to more than 300 acres. The latest detailed mapping put the fire at about 485 acres.
No one has been injured by the blaze, and no structures have been damaged.
About 25 residents along Highway 325 were evacuated Friday but were allowed to return to their homes late Sunday.
The incident commander on the fire said Sunday that the cost to fight the fire so far was about $1 million and that about 300 people were involved in the effort to contain the fire. Some of those resources are expected to be moved elsewhere as containment goals are met, he said.
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A crew from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center last week cut disks of wood from trees downed by a powerful avalanche that thundered off Garrett Peak in March 2019. The samples will aid research by dendrochronologists into the epic avalanche cycle.