Breckenridge Peak 2 Fire: Crews continue to make gains Sunday as pre-evacuations lifted
Other Colorado Fires:
• Peekaboo Fire (West of Craig) — 11,700 acres, 0-percent contained
• Gutzler Fire (West of Kremmling) — 1,000 acres, 3-percent contained
• East Rim Fire — (Northeast of Dove Creek) 689 acres, 14-percent contained
• Mill Creek Fire — (Northeast of Hayden) 482 acres, 40-percent contained
• 412 Fire (South of Rico) — 95 acres, estimated containment date Of July 15
• Lightner Creek Fire (West of Durango) — 412 acres, 95-percent contained
• Dead Dog Fire (North of Rangley) — 17,731 acres, 100-percent contained
• Hunter Fire (Southwest of Meeker) — 992 acres, 100-percent contained
A large-scale fire contingent continued to work the Peak 2 Fire burning 2 miles south of Frisco on Sunday. The wildfire reached 52 percent containment, and all pre-evacuations were lifted by the afternoon.
More than 400 personnel mobilized and were on the ground to help with efforts battling the 84-acre U.S. forestlands blaze burning into its fifth day. The bulk of operations Sunday consisted of firming up fire lines cut on the north and south sides of the flames to ensure variable weather won’t push it any closer to the towns of Frisco or Breckenridge.
Containment does not mean suppression, though, and predicted precipitation later this week would greatly assist in eventually stamping the fire out.
While the situation has improved enough to allow nearby residents in the Peak 7, Gold Hill, Silver Shekel and Farmer’s Corner subdivisions to return to their daily lives, officials say the fire could possibly endure for weeks. Visible smoke is expected to crop up during that time as the fire remains under close watch and some crews are reassigned to other incidents in the region.
“There’s a high likelihood it will not be put out for some time, and there will be smoke in the area for a while due to the type of terrain and heavy timber,” said Jim Keating, chief of the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District in Breckenridge. “Pretty good moisture would be the best thing ever for this area.”
The primary challenges of the fire are its location, mixed with the extremely dry weather.
“It’s a tough, rugged terrain and there’s a lot of dead trees,” said County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, a certified wildlands firefighter and also chair of Colorado’s Division of Fire Prevention and Control Wildfire advisory committee. “And it’s just so blasted dry. We’re in desperate need of rain.”
Rain showers won’t necessarily bring an end to the countywide fire ban, which was enacted a few hours after the Peak 2 Fire was reported. The prohibition of open campfires — the first in two years — came early this season and could carry on well into the summer and fall if storm patterns don’t increase during the approaching months that typically make up the mountain monsoon season.
Still, the local fire departments, U.S. Forest Service and Summit County Sheriff’s Office continue to receive calls that illegal campfires persist. Red, White and Blue and Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue responded to unattended fires Saturday and another eight on Sunday. Disobeying the countywide fire ban can result in a $1,000 fine if the responsible party is identified.
The cause of the Peak 2 Fire has still not been officially identified. That could be released this week following a thorough investigation and the possible return of some data in the coming days. An unattended campfire within a rock ring was officially labeled the cause of a second fire ignited Friday near Bald Mountain in Breckenridge.
That fire, which was fully contained by late Friday evening, ended up burning just a quarter-acre but did initiate a pre-evacuation notice for Baldy Mountain neighborhoods. Those were rescinded within two hours once a helicopter was diverted from the Peak 2 Fire to drop several hundred-gallon buckets of water, snuffing out the smaller wildfire.
“It made all the difference in the world or we’d probably still be chasing it up there, without a doubt,” Keating said. “It appears out, but we’re up there on a daily basis making sure nothing is still smoldering.”
Summit County has an estimated 30 wildfires each year, but the Peak 2 Fire is the first high-profile wildland incident since 15 acres of flames threatened 50 homes and forced evacuation of Summit High School and hundreds of residents in September 2005.
“I always say it’s not a matter of if but when, because we live in a community of 150,000 acres of dead trees,” Gibbs said. “One lighting strike, one fire that gets out of whack and we can have a major catastrophe.”
The newest wildfire is not only a reminder of how dire the conditions are for the county and many of its neighboring communities — Eagle and Clear Creek also have fire bans in place, for example — but also motivation to reconsider the local management plan, he added. That may be another step Summit takes in the near future to prevent the next substantial event.
“I think we need to work with the U.S. Forest Service, fire personnel and really look at … what we can do so we as a community are safer,” Gibbs said. “We live in a forested area, and wildfires happen. It’s just going to be constant, and we need a plan to mitigate those concerns moving forward.”
Those with questions about the Peak 2 Fire can call the public information hotline at 970-668-9730, or may receive updates via Facebook and Twitter at @peak2fire
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Kevin Warner started his career with the U.S. Forest Service as a wilderness ranger in 2001. Now he’s taking over the key position as Aspen-Sopris District Ranger.