Fire fighters contain wildfire near Breckenridge neighborhood |

Fire fighters contain wildfire near Breckenridge neighborhood

Jack Queen
Firefighters had the blaze 80 percent contained by the erly evening, although they expected to continue work into the night.
Jack Queen / |

Firefighters closed a stretch of French Gulch Road mid-morning on Monday as they worked to contain a small forest fire burning one mile east of the Wellington neighborhood in Breckenridge. The blaze, which peaked in size at about an acre, was 80 percent contained by the early evening. No evacuations were ordered.

A hiker in the Peak 10 area across the valley reported smoke rising from the French Gulch area at around 11 a.m. A crew of 15 from the Forest Service and local fire departments reached the area on ATVs soon after and created a perimeter around the blaze, cutting down unburned trees and clearing fuels while a scouting plane circled above mapping the fire with infrared cameras. Meanwhile, Breckenridge police closed off several nearby trails, including Side Door and B&B.

Trees occasionally ignited amid a narrow, thick column of smoke, but the fire was burning primarily at the ground level.

A resident of the Wellington neighborhood, who was notified of the blaze via the SC Alert automated text-messaging system, said she and her husband were creating a mental list of valuables — most importantly their two dogs — to grab quickly if they had to evacuate.

“I’m just thankful we don’t live somewhere like California where this happens all the time. Luckily, we don’t get these very often,” she said.

Several other residents were worried about their horses, which they keep at the Breckenridge Stables near Wellington.

“We would have a lot of horses to move — and move quickly,” said one resident who came to check on her horses after receiving a text about the fire.

Police officers near the scene assured her that they did not anticipate an evacuation because the fire did not appear to be spreading rapidly.

The combination of beetle kill and dry weather has left many parts of Colorado exposed to wildfires, and Summit County is no exception. While the cause of the blaze is still unknown, firefighters noted that there had been lightning strikes in the area the previous night.

There are currently at least eight active wildfires over 300 acres in the state. The Beaver Creek Fire near the Wyoming border has grown to more than 38,000 acres, sending hazy skies over Steamboat Springs.

“The biggest factor is that the trees are really dry and the vegetation is really dry,” explained RWB chief James Keating. “The pine pollen also makes it more volatile, and the wind really magnifies that.”

A helicopter arrived later in the afternoon and began dumping water onto the flames as crews continued to remove fuels ahead of the fire’s advance.

The blaze had shrunk to roughly two-fifths of an acre by the early evening, although firefighters on the scene said it was likely they would continue working into the night and keep the helicopter on call for the morning.

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