Coal Seam fire 70% contained | AspenTimes.com

Coal Seam fire 70% contained

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Five crews of elite firefighters continued containment efforts Tuesday on the Coal Seam fire outside Glenwood Springs.

The Hot Shot teams of 18 to 24 firefighters were digging lines on the north flank of the blaze on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management property about 10 miles south of the Flat Tops wilderness.

They are among approximately 625 personnel – firefighters and support – and at least three helicopters working on containing the fire.

Crews were also maintaining lines and putting out hot spots on the fire’s south and west fronts near populated areas.

The 12,100-acre fire was 70 percent contained, according to Coal Seam fire information officer Clint Trebesh. Hot weather, high winds and low humidity continued yesterday, increasing the threat that firefighters might lose control.

The fire started in South Canyon, west of Glenwood Springs, on June 8 after an underground fire that has been burning since the early 1900s ignited bone-dry timber and shrubs on a steep ridge near the town dump. It quickly grew out of control. Fanned by gusts of 60 and 70 mph, the fire moved rapidly west and north, jumping the Colorado River and burning down the east faces of Storm King and Red mountains into the West Glenwood area.

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More than two dozen home were incinerated Saturday night and early Sunday morning before the winds calmed and the fire’s path diverted into more remote areas. As the fire grew, more than 3,000 people were forced to evacuate neighborhoods on the north and west sides of Glenwood Springs.

Trebesh said the elite Hot Shot crews continued to work on Coal Seam because they wanted to have the fire fully contained.

Outside Durango, the Missionary Ridge fire took off over the past few days. At least 10 homes have been lost as flames advanced rapidly into neighborhoods surrounding a reservoir north of the city. Thousands have been evacuated.

The massive Hayman fire southwest of Denver flared up again Tuesday, expanding to the east and the west to more than 113,000 acres, according to the Hayman fire Web site. Evacuations continued in remote areas of Douglas County.

The popular Ride the Rockies bicycle tour was forced to make adjustments because of the Missionary Ridge fire. Race officials rerouted the course through the Durango area after local officials barred them from the planned route, according to a report in Tuesday’s edition of The Durango Herald. (See related story, page 2.)

Basalt Town Trustee Jacque Whitsitt is one of the local cyclists on Ride the Rockies. As she and other cyclists moved out of Durango yesterday morning, they were again forced to ride through thick smoke.

Some of the Type II crews, made up of firefighters who have yet to go through the special training it takes to become a Hot Shot, were scheduled yesterday to relocate from Coal Seam to other fires around the state, including Missionary Ridge, Trebesh said.

He declined to say when the Coal Seam fire might be fully contained.

[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is aharvey@aspentimes.com.]