Dry, endless heat sparks largest fire in Western Slope history — The #GrandJunction Daily Sentinel #PineGulchFire #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Firefighters on the march: The Pine Gulch Fire, smoke of which shown here, was started by alighting strike on July 31, 2020, approximately 18 miles north of Grand Junction, Colorado. According to InciWeb, as of August 27 2020, the Pine Gulch Fire became the largest wildfire in Colorado State history, surpassing Hayman Fire that burned near Colorado Springs in the summer of 2002. Photo credit: Bureau of Land Mangement-Colorado, via InciWeb and National Interagency Fire Center.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Alex Zorn):

The Pine Gulch Fire, which started from a lightning strike 18 miles north of Grand Junction on July 31, became the largest wildfire in Colorado history less than a month later. Though it did not keep that title for long, finishing wildfire season third in the state at just over 139,000 acres, its impact on western Colorado will be felt for years to come.

By September, the fire had reportedly cost $28 million to put out and though structure damage was minimal, it may be several years until the habitat is back to normal.

The fire remained in rural Mesa and Garfield counties for its entirety but dry and hot conditions fueled its growth throughout the month of August. Within a week, the fire grew to more than 10,000 acres as triple-digit temperature days became the norm for firefighters on scene.

The extreme dry heat, combined with the drought-stressed vegetation and steep terrain led to weeks of active burning with little extremely dangerous conditions for hand crews. Crews used aircraft to fight the fire early on but it did not stem the growth of the blaze.

“Between August 4 and August 9, 475,228 gallons of water (was dropped) on the Pine Gulch Fire from helicopters,” Incident Command reported…

At its peak, the fire’s closure was about 640,000 acres with around 900 firefighting personnel surrounding its perimeter, helping out at the forward operating base, running equipment up to the firefighters, or out on the front lines putting out hot spots and protecting homes.

About 80% of the fire burned on BLM land. Wayne Werkmeister, the office’s associate manager, told The Daily Sentinel it affected about one-tenth of the acreage in the office’s jurisdiction, and he expected the office to be kept busy for the next decade dealing with the fire’s impacts. Weed threats, range management and recreation impacts will be some of the other longer-term impacts officials will be dealing with for years to come, particularly when it comes to the BLM’s Grand Junction Field Office.

The Grizzly Creek Fire jumped Grizzly Creek north of Glenwood Canyon. (Provided by the City of Glenwood Springs)


Fire investigators have officially ruled the Grizzly Creek Fire was human-caused. The fire one mile east of Glenwood Springs shut down Interstate 70 in both directions between Glenwood Springs and Gypsum for two weeks, the longest-ever closure for that stretch of the corridor…

The August fire swept through much of Glenwood Canyon, charred many hillsides, scorched the undersides of some elevated portions of I-70 and sent rocks and burned logs down onto the highway and the railroad going through the canyon.

Leave a Reply