Spring Creek fire grows to 250 acres; fire teams upgraded
Some federal firefighting resources were shifted from the Coal Seam fire to an area north of New Castle Wednesday, as the Spring Creek fire grew by more than 15 times in size Wednesday.
As of Wednesday evening, the lightning-strike Spring Creek fire was listed as 0 percent contained.
Some firefighters were busy Tuesday getting ready to move their base of operations from the Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley campus south of Glenwood Springs to Riverside School in New Castle.
The Spring Creek fire, located about seven miles north of New Castle, expanded from 15 acres on Tuesday to 250 acres on Wednesday.
“It had a lot of action overnight,” fire information officer Melany Lamb said on Wednesday. “It was windy enough throughout (Tuesday) night that it generated a lot of smoke and torching.”
Winds caused some concern among fire officials on Wednesday, as well. Instead of more typical southwest winds that would push the fire to the northwest and away from town, winds on Wednesday pushed the fire south toward town. Those winds were being spawned by thunderstorm cells moving across the area.
“We hope we’ll get our typical weather patterns back,” Lamb said.
The fire also moved into the East Elk Creek drainage on Wednesday, but there was no indication that evacuations in the New Castle area would be imminent, Lamb said.
There are some structures located within one to two miles of the fire, but on Wednesday the fire stayed high on the ridges and showed no signs of making its way down to the lower elevations.
A fire weather watch was issued by the National Weather Service for western Colorado this afternoon and tonight, with widely-scattered high-based thunderstorms expected to develop, bringing dry lightning and wind gusts up to 50 mph.
Lamb said the fire management team received reports of thickening smoke and ash in New Castle.
Type III firefighters are being upgraded to a Type II team on the Spring Creek Fire, Lamb said.
She also said federal, county and New Castle officials were taking helicopter tours of the area to survey damage and see where the fire might be headed.
The Coal Seam fire remained 90 percent contained Wednesday. Crews were still working on building containment lines where they could and were aided by water drops from helicopters.
“It’s looking good,” fire information officer Clint Trebesh said. “There are still some hot spots to the north.”
The reason the containment percentage hasn’t increased in recent days is that the areas where the fire is now burning are remote and rugged, making it inaccessible to fire crews.
The teams are also working on rehabilitating the burned areas, Trebesh said.
“(Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation) is working on a plan for rehab,” he said. “They’ll be turning that report over to local agencies and the BLM.”
The fire’s size held steady at 12,209 acres on Wednesday. It hasn’t grown since last Friday.
“Fire crews are really working on getting the hot spots contained,” he said.
The cost of the fire is up to $7 million and about 122 firefighters remained working on the Coal Seam fire.
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The Glenwood Springs-Rifle sports rivalry goes way back for GSHS baseball coach and former Demons multi-sport student-athlete Eric Nieslanik.