Update: ‘Human caused’ Williams Fork Fire has burned over 6,300 acres
Update at 9:50 p.m. Sunday: On Sunday, authorities with the U.S. Forest Service attributed the Williams Fork Fire burning seven miles away from Fraser in Grand County to humans.
In a Sunday night update, the U.S. Forest Service listed the large wildfire as “human caused.” A spokesperson said over the phone that lightning had been ruled out, and while the exact cause remains under investigation, it is believed to be a result of human activity.
That revelation came with news that the Williams Fork Fire in southern Grand County grew to 6,345 acres by midday Sunday. At the same time, local authorities continued making evacuation plans in and around Fraser, just in case those plans are needed.
After an active Sunday morning in which the blaze moved east toward Lake Evelyn in the Byers Creek Wilderness, the fire did calm down in the afternoon with a change in wind direction from the north.
According to the Forest Service, retardant lines also helped slow the fire’s spread, and suppression crews remain focused on protecting infrastructure and high resource values in the area.
Fire managers have a goal of keeping the fire east of County Road 30, south of Keyser Creek Road, North of Darling Creek and west of County Road 50. Hot and dry conditions are expected to continue through Monday.
Update at 2:30 p.m. Sunday: The Williams Fork Fire has grown to approximately 6,000 acres overnight and fire officials are working on additional evacuation plans around Fraser in case they’re needed.
No new evacuations or pre-evacuations have been put in place, but a public information officer for the Williams Fork Fire said that activity continues to be extreme and they want to be prepared.
The US Forest Service has closed the Arapaho National Forest surrounding the fire. The closure includes the Byers Peak Wilderness and the Fraser Experimental Forest, as well as trailheads and campgrounds in the area.
With hot and dry conditions expected throughout Sunday, fire crews are preparing for continuous, rapid growth, according to Ed LeBlanc, incident commander for the Williams Fork Fire.
Update at 10:55 a.m. Sunday: The Williams Fork Fire continued to exhibit extreme fire behavior and expanded north toward Keyser Creek and south toward the Sugarloaf burn scar while increasing to at least 4,300 acres by Saturday night.
A visible plume could be seen across Middle Park, the Williams Fork Valley, Summit County and beyond.
Saturday’s firefighting efforts focused on protecting infrastructure and high resource values in the area, and planes dropped retardant on the fire throughout the day.
Fire managers hope to keep the blaze east of County Road 30, south of Keyser Creek Road (Forest Service Road 139), north of Darling Creek and west of County Road 50. Hot and dry conditions are expected to continue through Sunday.
A Type 3 Incident Management Team is currently working the Williams Fork Fire and preparing to transition to a Type 2 Incident Management Team, which is experienced in managing larger, more complex fires
The Type 2 team is planning to assume command of the fire at 6 a.m. Monday.
Closures: All access to the Church Park area is closed including: Forest Service Road 133, Forest Service Road 139, County Road 30, County Road 3, County Road 3 and County Road 50 at Young Life Camp.
Evacuation Areas: West: CR 3 and CR 30, North: Keyser Creek, South: Darling Creek, East: Church Park
Pre-Evacuations Areas: CR 50, CR 50S, CR 73, Aspen Canyon, Morgan Gulch, and Henderson Mill
Notifications: Sign up for CodeRed at http://www.gcemergency.com
Public Information Line: 970-445-2910 open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
5:50 p.m.: The Williams Fork Fire has grown to an estimated 4,300 acres by and remains at 0% containment. It is moving toward the Sugarloaf Fire scar.
In an evening update on Facebook live Saturday, Incident Commander Ed LeBlanc said that the fire is burning in the Williams Fork drainage. Firefighters have not been engaged into that area due to safety concerns.
“This is an extremely difficult area to fight fires in with all the fuel loading up in this drainage,” he said.
Crews are working to keep the fire east of County Road 30 and south of Keyser Creek Drainage. They are using the burn area from the 2018 Sugarloaf fire to contain the fire to the Byers Peak area.
LeBlanc said the fire was headed in a southeast direction with winds from the northwest.
Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin outlined plans for pre-evacuation and evacuations. CodeRED notifications have gone out to households under pre-evacuation orders, and homes will be notified with time to respond as orders change.
“We’re all working for the best interest for you,” he said. “Pre-evacuation and evacuation orders are planned and based on public safety.”
An evacuation center has been set up at the Inn at SilverCreek.
Public Information Officer Schelly Olson said that the community can support firefighters through thank you signs or cards, along with donations to any of the five fire districts in Grand County.
The public can call 970-414-0762 with evacuation questions.
4:50 p.m.: A pre-evacuation notification went out to the Aspen Canyon, Morgan Gulch and Henderson area. Pre-evacuees should have an overnight bag ready with necessary items like regular medications, change of clothes, identification, cash, water and snacks. Don’t forget pet goods.
This evacuation is not yet mandatory.
2:30 p.m.: Smoke from the Willams Fork Fire is visible over Ptarmigan Mountain in Silverthorne. People should not call 911 about the smoke, according to a news release from Summit Fire & EMS.
1 p.m.: The Williams Fork Fire is expected to pick up this afternoon as temperatures and winds increase. The fire is still moving in a northeast direction, but there has been no update on the size of the fire.
A virtual community meeting is planned for 5 p.m. on the Grand County Sheriff’s Facebook page.
Original story: As forest fires burn across Colorado, the Williams Fork Fire in Grand County continues raging with 0% containment heading into today.
The fire burned actively all night, according to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, with more than 90 personnel responding. More are expected today.
The fire started around noon Friday about 15 miles southwest of Fraser and has grown to at least 1,300 acres, according to the most recent update from the US Forest Service. The blaze is displaying extreme fire activity as it continues moving east/northeast toward Church Park.
The Grand County Sheriff evacuated the areas from County Road 30 on the west to Church Park and from St. Louis Creek Road on the east to the Darling Creek drainage to the south. Sugarloaf and South Fork campgrounds also have been evacuated.
The fire has reached the top of Kinney Creak and Darling Creek, holding east of CR 30 and south of Keyser Creek. Officials added that the fire is situated in a remote area of the upper Williams Fork Valley that experienced intense beetle kill in the early 2000s.
It is unknown what caused the fire.
Heavy air support was on the scene Friday along with about 50 firefighters from multiple cooperating agencies in Summit and Grand counties.
Hot, dry and windy conditions are expected through the weekend. A type two management team has been ordered to manage the fire. Teams plan to continue to hold the fire in its current location as they look for opportunities for control.
Stage 2 fire restrictions are in effect for Grand, meaning no outdoor burning.
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