Cow Creek fire slowed by snow

The fire is 8 miles east of Ridgway, Colorado

Cow Creek Fire map 3-D
3-D map of the Cow Creek fire showing (in red) the perimeter at 12:27 a.m. MDT October 19, 2019. The white line was the perimeter about 48 hours before. Looking east.

Two to three inches of snow Saturday night slowed the spread of the Cow Fire 27 miles southeast of Montrose, Colorado (see map). Firefighters said the heavy vegetation in the fire area is still extremely dry.

The fire has burned at least 785 acres, but that figure has not been updated since Saturday morning because the mapping flight Saturday night was scrubbed due to strong winds.

In spite of the cooler temperatures and precipitation, they expect creeping, smoldering, and single tree torching on Sunday with the humidity in the 20s and a 13 mph northwest wind. After overnight temperatures in the teens at Ridgway Sunday night the forecast for Monday is 47 degrees, partly sunny, 10-13 mph west wind, and the humidity dropping into the 30s.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Cow Creek Fire, including the most recent, click here.)

The Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Blue Team with Incident Commander Mike Haydon assumed command Saturday at 7 p.m. after transitioning with the local Type 3 team.

Cow Creek Fire
Cow Creek Fire posted October 18, 2019 before two to three inches of snow. Photo by Josh Oak.

Firefighters will be monitoring backing fire activity on the southwest side of the fire as it moves downhill towards Cow Creek. On the north and northeast sides crews are scouting for locations to build fireline where it would be most successful should the fire advance. Firefighters have completed a fire line on the east side.

Cow Creek Fire map
Map of the Cow Creek fire showing the perimeter at 12:27 a.m. MDT October 19, 2019.

Cow Creek Fire spreads to the base of Courthouse Mountain

map cow fire colorado ridgway
3-D map (looking east) showing the perimeter of the Cow Creek Fire at 10:04 p.m. Oct. 17, 2019. Click to enlarge. The spot fires are on the left.

Updated at 10:12 a.m. MDT October 18, 2019

The Cow Creek Fire climbed further up the steep slopes east of Ridgway, Colorado on Thursday, growing to 655 acres according to an overnight mapping flight. (see map) Burning embers started three spot fires near the western base of Courthouse Mountain about 0.75 miles away from the main fire. The incident management team said the spot fires are within the identified area of containment and currently pose no threat to private property or structures.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Cow Creek Fire click here.)

The spot fires are at 10,700 feet in an area that has Aspen groves in their autumn colors. The main ridge to the east ranges from 11,000 to 12,000 feet.

Fire officials ordered a Type 2 Incident Management Team Thursday night.

Below is an update from the Forest Service at 8:45 a.m. October 18:

Access to the Cow Creek Fire remains a safety concern for assigned fire crews. Rugged terrain combined with dry fuels have caused crews to adopt an indirect confine and contain suppression strategy. Firefighters spent Thursday identifying and constructing contingency lines in areas where predictive models have shown a potential for fire spread. These lines, using existing natural and manmade features, will help contain the fire in the event of rapid spread. On Friday, crews are expected to continue confine and containment operations.

Fire Weather: On Friday, forecasts show scattered showers throughout the morning into the afternoon with temperatures in the low to high 40s and minimum humidity ranging from 42-47%. There will be moderate southwestern winds, with strong gusts, that will shift to steady, western winds during the late morning and eventually northwest in the afternoon. Smoke from the fire could be present in Mesa, Delta, Montrose, Ouray, Gunnison, Saguache, San Miguel, Hinsdale, Garfield and Eagle counties.

Resources assigned to the fire include 2 hand crews, 2 engines, and 3 helicopters for a total of 64 personnel.

Cow Fire October 17 Ridgway Colorado
A photo of the Cow Fire on October 17 shows a spot fire shortly after it ignited near the western base Courthouse Mountain. Incident Management Team photo.
map cow fire colorado ridgway
Map showing the perimeter of the Cow Creek Fire at 10:04 p.m. Oct. 17, 2019.
Helena Regulars 20 person handcrew Cow Creek Fire
Helena Regulars 20 person handcrew on the Cow Creek Fire near West Fork October 17, 2019, with Chimney Rock in the background. IMT photo.

Prescribed fire in Larimer County, Colorado escapes; evacuations ordered

The Elk Fire is 6 miles southeast of Red Feather Lakes

The Elk Fire
The Elk Fire. CBS Copter 4, October 16, 2019.

12:42 p.m. MDT October 17, 2019

A prescribed fire at a scout ranch escaped control in Colorado on Wednesday forcing residents out of their homes. The Elkhorn Creek Forest Health Initiative and Nature Conservancy Colorado were conducting the “Elkhorn 4 Prescribed Burn” at the Ben Delatour Scout Ranch near Red Feather Lakes south of W. County Road 74e and road 68c.

Thursday morning the Larimer County Sheriff’s office reported that the fire, which was named Elk, had not grown much overnight. The total size of the incident was 622 acres which included 472 acres within the project boundary.

At noon on Thursday mandatory evacuation orders were still in place for Glacier View Gates 7 through 13. One shed has been damaged and 50 homes are threatened.

The Elk Fire is in north-central Colorado 6 miles southeast of Red Feather Lakes and 20 miles northwest of Fort Collins. (see map below)

Elk Fire map
Map showing heat detected on the Elk Fire by a satellite at 3:30 a.m. Oct. 17, 2019.

In addition to firefighters on the ground the fire was attacked by aircraft including at least one large air tanker (RJ85 Tanker 163) and a single engine air tanker.

Cow Creek Fire burning east of Ridgway, Colorado

The fire is 27 miles southeast of Montrose, Colorado

map Cow Creek Fire
3-D map (looking northwest) showing heat detected on the Cow Creek Fire by a satellite at 3:36 a.m. MDT Oct. 17, 2019.

UPDATED at 2:11 p.m. MDT October 17, 2019

The Cow Creek Fire is 27 miles southeast of Montrose, Colorado. Here is an update from fire officials on Thursday:

A Type 3 Incident Management Organization has been established in response to the Cow Creek Fire. Crews assigned to this organization will work to suppress the fire using geographical features, roads and trails. An overnight reconnaissance flight established the official acreage at 85 with no containment.

South-southwest winds with gusts up to 25 miles per hour are forecasted for the fire area this afternoon. Due to dry fuel conditions in the fire area there is a high probably of rapid fire spread. Currently predictive models have the spread staying within forest boundaries away from structures and private lands. These forecasted winds will cause heavy smoke throughout the Western Slope.

The Cow Creek Fire is currently in heavy mixed conifer within the Uncompaghre Wilderness of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests. Fire crews are utilizing indirect confine and contain strategies in areas with the highest probability of success with public and firefighter safety in mind. An investigation team has been assigned to the incident and is currently working to determine the cause of the fire, which is currently unknown.

The forecast on Thursday is for south winds of 8 to 12 mph increasing to southwest at 10 to 15 with gusts up to 25 after noon. The chance of showers or snow begins to increase late in the afternoon, with isolated showers or thunderstorms through sunset, then increasing to scattered showers with isolated thunderstorms overnight. The amount of precipitation could be around 0.05 inch — not enough to put out the fire, but it could slow the spread.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Cow Creek Fire, including the most recent, click here.)

The fire is burning at 10,000 feet with an 11,000 to 12,000-foot ridge to the east. Officially, the strategy they are employing is full suppression.

From a Forest Service update October 16, “Additional resources have been ordered and will be employed where tactics and strategies have high probabilities for success, while minimizing unnecessary exposure to the public and firefighters.”

If they can keep it east of the large north-south drainage west of the fire, and if the weather cooperates, they may be able hang on while “minimizing unnecessary exposure” until a fire season-ending weather event.


UPDATED at 6:50 p.m. MDT October 16, 2019

Cow Creek Fire
The Cow Creek Fire as seen from Colorado’s MultiMission Aircraft. Posted at about 4 p.m. October, 16, 2019.

Authorities are saying the Cow Creek Fire 27 miles southeast of Montrose, Colorado has burned 100 acres.

Strong winds gusting around 35 mph are in the forecast for Thursday night, as well as Saturday and Sunday. If it is not contained by then, it could grow substantially by the first of next week. The strategy is full suppression, rather than manage and herd it around.


2:13 p.m. MDT October 16, 2019

Judging from photos taken by nearby residents, a fire reported 9 miles east of Ridgway, Colorado appears to be spreading quickly since it was reported at about 8 a.m. Wednesday. The Cow Creek Fire is in the Uncompahgre National Forest near the Red Creek-Chimney Rock area 27 miles southeast of Montrose. (see map below)

Continue reading “Cow Creek Fire burning east of Ridgway, Colorado”

Decker Fire grows to over 8,000 acres

Rapid spread of the fire Sunday forced fire crews to escape to a safety zone

map of the Decker Fire
3-D map of the Decker Fire at 7:02 p.m. MDT Oct. 13, 2019. The red shaded areas represent intense heat. Looking southwest. Click to enlarge.

UPDATED at 10:25 p.m. MDT Oct. 14, 2019

The Decker Fire has ordered nine more 20-person hand crews. They will be Type 2 IA (Initial Attack) crews coming all the way from Oregon.

The weather near Salida is not expected to be extreme through Thursday; the winds will be from the west or southwest at less than 11 to 14 mph but the humidity will be very low — single digits during the day and in the 30s at night. But beginning Friday and through the weekend the wind will increase to the mid-teens with gusts in the 30s. There is a chance of rain or snow on Sunday.

Those crews might be handy to have around on Friday and Saturday, and also to get more line construction and mopup done before the winds arrive.


4:02 p.m. MDT Oct. 14, 2019

The Decker Fire three miles south of Salida, Colorado continues to grow and Sunday put firefighters in a precarious situation. After the fire crossed fire lines on both the east and west sides following three days of Red Flag Warnings firefighters on the northeast side working to stop the spread had to use escape routes to take refuge in safety zones. After taking accountability to ensure all were safe, they reengaged after the fire activity decreased.

(To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the Decker Fire, including the most recent, click here.)

More fire crews and aircraft have been requested and new evacuation orders for residents issued.

The 8,118-acre lightning-caused fire has been burning for about five weeks and is being “managed” or herded around, rather than fully suppressed.

For evacuation  information contact the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office, 719-539-2596, or Fremont County Emergency Management, 719-276-7416, 719-276-7418, or visit the Chaffee County Sheriff or Fremont County Sheriff Facebook pages and websites.

Resources assigned to the fire include: 18 hand crews, 27 fire engines, 4 dozers, 8 water tenders, and 7 helicopters for a total of 707 personnel.

Map Decker Fire
Map of the Decker Fire at 7:02 p.m. MDT Oct. 13, 2019. The red shaded areas represent intense heat.

The video below that shows the smoke column blowing rapidly off to the left is time-lapse, not real time.

Firefighters to conduct aerial ignition operation on the Decker Fire

The fire has burned 6,155 acres south of Salida, Colorado

Above: The west side of the Decker Fire, October 5, 2019. InciWeb.

11:44 a.m. MDT October 6, 2019

Even though the Decker Fire south of Salida, Colorado is not a full suppression fire, quite a bit of fireline has been constructed on the perimeter. However, Mark Giacoletto’s Type 1 Incident Management Team reports that only 5 percent of the fire is contained.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Decker Fire, including the most recent, click here.)

Most of the recent fire activity has occurred on the west side (see map below). Over the last two days the fire has grown by 331 acres, bringing the total to 6,155 acres.

The photo at the top of the article shows that portions of the fire on the west side are creeping into stands of Aspen, which can slow the spread considerably.

map Decker Fire
Map showing the perimeter of the Decker Fire (in red) at 10:08 p.m. MDT Oct. 5, 2019. The white line was the perimeter about 48 hours before.

Residents may see more smoke in the area Monday as fire managers burn out some areas on the east side. The objective is to remove fuel and slow the spread of the main fire. The aerial ignition operation will be conducted from a helicopter.

Resources assigned to the fire include: 23 hand crews, 28 engines, 3 dozers, 6 helicopters, 3 fixed wing aircraft, and 10 water tenders for a total of 806 personnel.

There is now an interactive map available for the Decker Fire at https://arcg.is/1zPGWH. It will allow you to enter your address to see your location relative to the fire, it provides a measuring tool to measure distance, and can give hunters information related to forest closures. The fire perimeter on the map will be updated once a day.