Cherry Canyon Fire in southeast Colorado grows to nearly 12,000 acres

The wildfire is 58 miles east-northeast of Trinidad

Cherry Canyon Fire Colorado
Cherry Canyon Fire, courtesy of Colorado Fire Prevention & Control

(UPDATED at 11:43 p.m. MDT May 24, 2020)

Strong winds and extremely low humidity on Saturday caused the Cherry Canyon Fire, 13 miles north of Kim, Colorado, to spread to the northwest crossing County Road 193.5 west of Highway 109. Colorado Fire Prevention & Control said Saturday evening that the fire was mapped at 11,818 acres at 5 p.m.

In a five-hour period Saturday morning the humidity dropped from 92 to 8 percent while the southwest wind was blowing at 3 to 8 mph gusting to 31, according to records from a portable weather station installed near the fire. Spread of the fire slowed Saturday night and by 7:45 Sunday morning the humidity had risen to 69 percent. Rain began falling after 4 p.m., with 0.15 inches accumulating by 11 p.m.

Below is an excerpt from a news release by Colorado Fire Prevention & Control:

Firefighters camped out on the West side of the fire last night and completed a large portion of work in the accessible terrain and will continue to monitor the inaccessible areas. Firefighters on the East side of the fire were not able to conduct burnout operations last night due to unfavorable conditions, but worked in that region today to tie in the large slopover/run from yesterday afternoon.

Additionally, while there are few structures at risk from this fire, other values, such as grazing land, water, and livestock, are very important in this region. Allowing the fire to continue to burn eliminates feed for cattle, exposes steep slopes to be susceptible to erosion, and causes health concerns from the increased smoke.  As is normal in every wildfire, a risk-benefit analysis is conducted before actions are initiated; from this discussion, it was determined that rather than smoking out communities, removing grazing land for cattle and impacting communities with restrictions on travel/road closures, it is better to suppress the fire.

Cherry Canyon Fire Colorado map

Cherry Canyon Fire Colorado map
Map showing heat on the Cherry Canyon Fire detected by satellites. Heat was sensed somewhere within each of the circles. The actual perimeter is slightly smaller than the white line seen on the map. All locations are approximate.

(UPDATED at 11:28 a.m. MDT May 23, 2020)

Cherry Canyon Fire wildfire Colorado
Cherry Canyon Fire, courtesy of Colorado Fire Prevention & Control

In an update Friday at 5:40 p.m. MDT the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control said the lightning-caused Cherry Canyon Fire had burned 9,602 acres. A Type 3 Incident Management Team led by Phil Daniels is assigned.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Cherry Canyon Fire click here)

“Safety is the number one priority and as such, strategies moving forward include maintaining firefighter and public safety by utilizing sound risk management actions and utilizing suppression activities that guide the fire into natural barriers,” the agency said in a news release. “Additionally, [we are] minimizing the potential impacts of COVID-19 through the practice of social distancing, proper personal hygiene, and regular cleaning.”

The fire is in southeast Colorado 9 miles northwest of Kim and 58 miles east-northeast of Trinidad. It was reported at 8:28 MDT on Wednesday.

Strong winds and difficult access are making fighting the fire difficult.

A Red Flag Warning  is in effect again for the fire area from noon to 8 p.m. MDT today due to gusty winds, low relative humidity, and dry fuels.

Map Vicinity Cherry Canyon Fire
Vicinity map of the Cherry Canyon Fire in southeast Colorado.
Cherry Canyon Fire wildfire Colorado map
Map of the Cherry Canyon Fire showing heat detected by satellites as late as 3:24 a.m. MDT May 23, 2020.
Cherry Canyon Fire wildfire Colorado
Helicopter 58HJ with Cañon Helitack got assigned to the Cherry Canyon Fire near Kim, Colorado shortly after it became available for the fire season. Photo by @getoutgetmoving
Cherry Canyon Fire wildfire Colorado
Cherry Canyon Fire, courtesy of Colorado Fire Prevention & Control
Cherry Canyon Fire wildfire Colorado
Cherry Canyon Fire, courtesy of Colorado Fire Prevention & Control

Cherry Canyon Fire in Colorado made an impressive run Thursday

It has burned over 7,300 acres in the southeast part of the state near Kim

Cherry Canyon Fire Colorado
Cherry Canyon Fire as seen from about 10 miles south of La Junta, Colorado. Photo by Otero County Sheriff, May 20, 2020.

(Originally published at 11:40 a.m. MDT May 22, 2020)

The Cherry Canyon Fire that was reported May 20 grew rapidly Thursday and has now burned 7,390 acres. The fire is in southeast Colorado 9 miles northwest of Kim and 58 miles east-northeast of Trinidad.

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

From the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control Friday morning:

Yesterday was the first shift for our folks on the #CherryCanyonFire near Kim, CO. The fire made an impressive 6000+ acre push yesterday due to sustained winds of around 40mph.

On Thursday it was burning in chaparral and short grass exhibiting extreme fire behavior with crowning, torching, and spotting. According to Friday morning’s Situation Report the firefighting resources assigned include 2 hand crews and 10 engines for a total of 61 personnel.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning Friday from 1 p.m. until 9 p.m. for 10 to 20 mph winds gusting to 35 mph, with relative humidity as low as 7 percent. A Fire Weather Watch is in effect Saturday afternoon and evening for similar conditions.

Map Vicinity Cherry Canyon Fire
Vicinity map of the Cherry Canyon Fire in southeast Colorado.
Map of the Cherry Canyon Fire
Map of the Cherry Canyon Fire showing heat detected by satellites as late as 2:54 a.m. MDT May 22, 2020.
Cherry Canyon Fire Colorado
Cherry Canyon Fire. Photo by Colorado Fire Prevention & Control.

AAR completed for the Lion Fire near Meeker, Colorado

Lion Fire Map Meeker Colorado wildfire
Map showing the approximate location of the Lion Fire 1.5 miles west of Meeker, Colorado. Data from Orora Technologies detected from 2:12 p.m. MDT April 7, to 2:30 a.m. MDT April 8, 2020.

An informal After Action Review has been produced for the Lion Fire that burned about 229 acres west of Meeker, Colorado on April 7. The fire was attacked by the Meeker Volunteer Fire Department, Bureau of Land Management, and the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control. By the end of the day firefighters had stopped the spread. Investigators determined that it started near a mobile home which was consumed in the fire. Several outbuildings and vehicles were also destroyed, according to Meeker Fire Chief Luke Pelloni.

Below is the ARR, distributed by the Zone Fire Management Officer:

As many of you know we had the Lion Fire last week just west of Meeker involving multiple jurisdictions/agencies.  I was tasked with letting you all know how things went as far as COVID-19 measures and mitigation’s.

We have taken multiple steps in our station to limit and minimize exposure to firefighters as we are entering fire season.  I believe there have been lots of good discussions and decisions made in regards to COVID-19.  However, just like in everything we do the plan looks good on paper until the smoke is flying in the air.  Listed below are some of the lessons learned from on the ground experiences last week.

  1. Social distancing is very tough in stressful situations.  The crew discussed social distancing before leaving for the fire and to try and abide by the guidelines, upon arrival multiple structures/vehicles were burning and instincts to protect life and property take over.
  2. When evacuating public, maintaining distance is difficult when property/landowners are panicked and looking for answers and guidance.
  3. When working with multiple agencies the COVID-19 mitigation measures and messages have varied widely and are hard to enforce or maintain.
  4. Briefings are hard to conduct in the field with large crowds and maintain the appropriate distance that is recommended.  We usually don’t have microphones or platforms in initial attack so harder to hear and voice critical information to multiple crews.
  5. Once dispatched we utilized four vehicles with eight firefighters.  This idea seemed like a good idea until arrival and the parking and safety areas for vehicles was minimal.  It added a bit of cluster you could say to the initial arrival to the incident.
  6. Upon arrival personnel jumped into different trucks and engines to engage on the fire creating more “contaminated” surfaces by different people at different times of the incident.
  7. It is very difficult to keep equipment sanitized throughout an incident (examples: truck radios, hand tools, chainsaws, steering wheels, compartment doors, etc.)
  8. A few individuals did wear masks and experienced a harder time communicating to one another thus decreasing the distance between individuals.  The people who did wear masks seemed to be touching their faces and adjusting masks more.

These are a few of the lessons or experiences that we noticed on our first wildfire of the year.  I think we are taking adequate measures to address issues and potential situations that crews will experience this summer.  I think the list above will be some of the issues or challenges that firefighters will encounter on incidents.  One concern I have is the ability to sanitize and clean work areas.  We have spent an entire day trying to purchase items but our current credit card procedures are making that difficult to achieve.  If anyone has any questions or concerns feel free to give me a shout anytime.  Hope everyone is safe and making it through these interesting times.

End of AAR

Lion Fire
Lion Fire. Photo by Rio Blanco Co Sheriff’s Office April 7, 2020.

560 Fire burns 68 acres southwest of Denver

Map location 560 Fire Colorado
Map showing the approximate location of the “560 Fire” northwest of Cheesman Lake in Colorado, 2:24 p.m. MDT April 25, 2020.

Firefighters were able to stop the spread of the “560 Fire” after it burned 68 acres 30 miles southwest of Denver Saturday afternoon. It was reported in the Pike & San Isabel National Forest at 12:30 p.m. near the 560 Road (Stony Pass Road) 3 miles northwest of Cheesman Lake.

The fire did not grow overnight but smoke will be visible Sunday as dead trees continue to burn in the footprint of the Hayman Fire that blackened 137,760 acres in 2002. Crews and dozers will build fireline around the perimeter where it is accessible and can be done safely.

560 Fire, April 25, 2020 Colorado
560 Fire, April 25, 2020. Photo courtesy of Kara Lee of Elk Creek Fire.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bean. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Colorado hopes to increase size of aerial firefighting fleet during the pandemic

The DFPC is requesting three additional air tankers and one helicopter

CR34 Fire in southeast Colorado
The CR34 Fire in southeast Colorado 10 miles south of Springfield, February 13, 2019. Baca County Sheriff’s Office photo.

(This article first appeared at

The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) wishes to obtain additional aircraft for their firefighting fleet during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to Governor Jared Polis and members of the General Assembly, the Director of the Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Mike Morgan, will be requesting $7.7 million to add three air tankers, a helicopter, and a fixed wing aircraft in order to provide aggressive initial attack and to supplement the limited number of ground resources available during the pandemic.

Currently the state owns two Multi-Mission Aircraft used for mapping reconnaissance. On contract they have two Exclusive Use (EU) Helicopters each with 12-person DFPC Helitack Crews, two EU Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATS), and three Call-When-Needed (CWN) SEAT contracts.

If approved by the Governor and the Assembly the additional aircraft, all on EU contracts, would include one large air tanker on a 120-day contract, two single engine air tankers (SEATs) on 150-day contracts, a Type 2 helicopter on a 120-day contract, and an Air Attack fixed-wing aircraft on a 180-day contract for aerial supervision and airspace coordination.

The 747 SuperTanker is on a CWN contract with Colorado but it needs to take and pass another grid test before it can be used on a fire in the United States. It has been certified by the Interagency Airtanker Board on an interim basis, but that has expired. After having made modifications to the retardant delivery system, the operator, Global SuperTanker, believes the aircraft will pass the test, but scheduling it during the pandemic has proved to be difficult.

Colorado also has a CWN contract for a P-3 large air tanker operated by Airstrike.

The state’s Wildfire Emergency Response Fund (WERF), part of an effort to keep fires small, provides funding or reimbursement for the first air tanker flight or the first hour of a firefighting helicopter, and/or two days of a wildfire hand crew at the request any county sheriff, municipal fire department, or fire protection district.

The firefighting goals of the DFPC include:

  • Generating an incident assessment for every fire within 60 minutes of request or detection.
  • Delivering the appropriate aviation suppression resources to every fire within 60 minutes of the request.
  • Providing on-scene technical assistance and support within 90 minutes of request for support from a local agency.

Colorado has beefed up their ground resources this year, adding three additional 10-person modules (hand crews) which raises the total number of modules to four, with one in each quadrant of the state.

Colorado wildfires 2002 - 2019
Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control

The DFPC continues to partner with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to increase the availability of bulldozers, road graders, and other heavy equipment for wildfire suppression. To date, 75 CDOT equipment operators have received basic training.

Like other firefighting organizations, Colorado realizes that the pandemic is likely to reduce the availability and productivity of firefighters. Staffing of Incident Management Teams (IMTs) may be constrained by a reduced number of personnel who are available to leave their home jurisdictions. The DFPC is developing cadre lists of State and local personnel who can form multiple Type 3 IMTs for suppressing wildfires.

Large wildfire burning at Bent’s Old Fort in southeast Colorado

Bents Fort Fire wildfire Map April 12-2020
Map showing the location of the Bent’s Fort Fire in southeast Colorado, at 4:42 a.m. MDT, 4-12-2020. Satellites detected heat in each of the circles.

(UPDATED at 2:18 p.m. MDT April 12, 2020)

Sunday morning the Otero County Sheriff’s Office reported that the Bent’s Fort Fire had burned approximately 1,500 acres and was about 75% contained. Crews were still working on hot spots and on the southern edge where it jumped the river at the Otero/Bent County line and flared up at around 3 a.m. Sunday.

The most recent heat shown in the map above was detected by a satellite at 4:42 a.m. MDT Sunday.

The fire is about halfway between La Junta and Las Animas in southeast Colorado, east of Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site.

(Originally published at 5:38 p.m. MDT April 11, 2020)

Bent's Fort Fire Colorado
Bents Fort Fire, posted at 1:57 p.m. MDT 4-11-2020 by Colorado State Patrol.

A fire described as “massive” by the Twitter account for the Otero County Sheriff ignited Saturday about 9 miles east of La Junta, Colorado. The Sheriff’s office said at 3:05 p.m. MDT, “Fire units from almost [all] of southeast Colorado responding.” (see map below)

Bents Fort Fire Map 4:55 pm MDT 4-11-2020
Map showing the general location of the Bent’s Fort Fire in southeast Colorado, 4-11-2020.
Bents Fort Fire Map 2:36 pm MDT 4-11-2020
Map showing the location of the Bent’s Fort Fire in southeast Colorado, at 2:36 p.m. MDT, 4-11-2020. Satellites detected heat in each of the circles.

At 5:34 p.m. MDT the fire had burned approximately 1,167 acres according to the Otero County Sheriff’s office.

The fire is east of Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site which is on the south side of Highway 194.

Bent's Fort Fire Colorado
Bents Fort Fire, posted at 2:12 p.m. MDT 4-11-2020 by Otero County Sheriff.

The weather conditions are very conducive to rapid fire spread. At 5:30 p.m. at the La Junta Municipal Airport: 75 degrees, 6% relative humidity, with wind out of the south at 12 mph gusting to 22.