Rifle, Buford-area fires grow to more than 200 acres each | AspenTimes.com

Rifle, Buford-area fires grow to more than 200 acres each

Staff reports
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Federal firefighting crews were busy Monday battling two wildfires burning on U.S. Forest Service land in western Garfield County and southern Rio Blanco County near Buford.

The Cache Creek Fire grew to an estimated 200 acres Monday, as crews and aerial resources were being used to suppress a wildfire burning in heavy dead and downed fuels in steep, rugged terrain about 8 miles southwest of Rifle

"Crews are working to establish safe anchor points from which to build fire line to prevent spread toward values at risk," White River National Forest officials said in a mid-afternoon update Monday. "(On Sunday) air resources concentrated efforts on the east and north flanks using a water-enhancing gel and water drops to check the spread of the fire."

Monday efforts focused on keeping the fire from burning toward structures on private land and private oil and gas infrastructure, which are located about 2 miles east and north of the fire area.

"Firefighters will continue to work closely to coordinate with landowners and oil and gas companies in the area," the statement said.

Meanwhile, federal fire management officials said Monday that the Cabin Lake Fire burning near the New Castle-Buford road just over the Garfield/Rio Blanco county line also had grown to more than 200 acres.

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The Seven Lakes Lodge and several cabins in the area remain evacuated.

"Structure, private property protection and public and firefighter safety remain the top priorities," the Forest Service said in a statement. "Structures remain threatened, however, no structures have been lost."

The fire is burning approximately 5.5 miles south of Buford and 7 miles northwest the Meadow Lake Campground, in private and Forest Service lands in Rio Blanco County.

It was estimated Monday that fire had reached over 200 acres, though officials were waiting for more accurate mapping for an updated area.

A reverse 911 call was issued to residents of Rio Blanco County Road 17 to alert them to firefighting equipment in the area and the potential that a pre-evacuation or evacuation order may be issued.

Two hotshot crews were working directly on the north flank of the fire, attempting to establish fire line in the areas closest to structures, according to the Monday update.

Helicopters will continue conducting water bucket drops to check fire spread and cool hot spots in coordination with ground crews, according to fire officials. Two engines will continue to focus on structure protection throughout the day at Seven Lakes Lodge.

Both fires involved extensive air and ground firefighting support.

At the Cache Creek Fire, helicopters were conducting water dips at Battlement Mesa Reservoir. Forest users are asked to avoid the area while suppression operations take place.

Due to growing complexity, location and size of the fire, a more-intensive type 2 incident management team has been ordered for the Cache Creek Fire. A transition is expected to occur within the next few days, according to Forest Service spokeswoman Kate Jerman.

Jerman said the team will not be the one currently working the Lake Christine Fire near Basalt, which is expected to be released from that fire later this week.

"We decide teams based on availability and proximity," she said. "Prior to fire season, the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, located in Denver, sets a team rotation schedule regionally. Team placement on a fire depends on which team is up next on the rotation and if they are available.

"If our regional teams are unavailable or already committed to another fire, the RMACC looks for other teams available outside of our immediate region," she said.

The Cache Creek Fire was initially called in at approximately 8:30 p.m. Saturday, and a cause still had not been determined as of Monday.

An Inciweb page has been established for the fire at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6052.

Motorists should expect smoke to be visible from the Interstate 70 corridor near Rifle, Parachute and Rulison, and should not call 911.