The 20-year history of fires in the Boulder, Colorado area

October 19, 2020   |   5 a.m. MDT 

Colorado fire history Boulder
The history of fires north and west of Boulder, from 2000 to October 18, 2020.

The map shows the history of fires north and west of Boulder, Colorado from 2000 through October 18, 2020. It includes two fires that are currently active, the Lefthand and Calwood Fires.

The fire on the map that is most notable for many Coloradans is likely the 6,200-acre Fourmile Canyon Fire on Labor day of 2010:

  • It burned 169 homes.
  • 12 of those were firefighters’ homes.
  • This was one of the first fires where it became known that private firefighters hired by an insurance company defended homes of policy holders that were valued at more than $1 million.
  • The state of Colorado did not apply for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide help for the property owners that were affected by the fire. If a disaster declaration had been requested and then approved by the President, FEMA may have made assistance available for individuals including temporary housing, disaster losses not covered by insurance, related medical costs, replacement of vehicles and clothing, moving costs, and disaster unemployment insurance.

We covered the Fourmile Canyon Fire extensively.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

7 thoughts on “The 20-year history of fires in the Boulder, Colorado area”

  1. Nice job pulling this together. As a 30-year resident 3 miles west of Jamestown (Bar-K; first time fire evacuee in all this time) and long-time commuter on Lefthand Canyon, I am pretty sure that the Lefthand Canyon Fire of 2011 is standing in for multiple fires that were started at a shooting range a few miles up the canyon before it was finally shut down. If memory serves, there were new fires every other year or so in the 90s and 00s, obviously smaller than the final one in 2011, so I understand how it would be difficult to depict.

    I am actually curious about the little fire depicted with no name just south of Jamestown, is there any more information available about that one?

    One final comment about the Black Tiger Gulch fire on July 9th, 1989, the most devastating fire in Colorado history until then (~40 homes up on the Sugarloaf subdivision). That fire started less than 100 yards from the rental cabin I was living at back then and burnt up the canyon wall in less than one hour, devastating most of its 2000-acre total before the fire fighters were even able to set up properly (it took them more than 15 minutes just to come up the 6 miles from Boulder in Boulder Canyon). It was so intense that it left holes in the ground where trees had been. Having moved there less than a year earlier, it is literally seared in my memory. And helped me convince my wife to move up to terrain that had natural fire recurrence probabilities much lower than in the lower foothills (as borne out by fire scars in tree ring records).

  2. I think your map is helpful to give context to Boulder County’s fire history. Of note is that some of the fires in Boulder County were during winter as human caused events on days with strong Chinook winds. I agree that the Walker Ranch Fire is of note because it was a prescribed burn that escaped and burned structures. And going back a little further, the Black Tiger Fire in 1989 on the western edge of the 4-Mile was important because it really was communication and jurisdictional cluster of every department running around doing there own thing without regard for the incident command structure. Those problems lead to things improving vastly in Planet Boulder over the past 20 years.

  3. Would you consider including the southern part of Boulder County. It appears our two fires are cut off on the above map – the one in Walker Ranch/Gross Reservoir and the one on the backside of the southern Flatiron. I’d like a copy of all the fires.


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