Update on the six largest wildfires in Colorado

Air Tanker drop Oil Springs Fire
An Air Tanker drops on the Oil Springs Fire to protect a natural gas plant south of Rangely, CO. The retardant did not cover the plant. Posted 6-23-2021 on InciWeb.

Colorado has six wildfires larger than 500 acres. The fires have not been extremely active over the last couple of days and there is a chance of thunderstorms over most of the western part of the state through the weekend.

wildfires in Colorado, June 24, 2021

Oil Springs Fire, 11,933 acres, 18 miles south of Rangely. The Great Basin Incident Management Team 3 assumed command of the fire at 6:30 a.m. on June 22. Firefighters are still seeing active fire behavior due to dry conditions, receptive fuels and wind.

Muddy Slide Fire, 4,056 acres, 22 miles south of Steamboat Springs. The Rocky Mountain Area Type 2 Incident Management Team Blue assumed command of the Muddy Slide Fire at 6:00 a.m. Thursday. Evacuation information is available HERE. On Thursday, the fire area is forecast to receive afternoon showers, thunderstorms, and increased moisture, reducing fire behavior in the short-term, giving firefighters an opportunity to safely engage the fire.

Sylvan Fire, 3,752 acres, 12 miles south of Eagle. The Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team, with Dan Dallas as Incident Commander assumed command of the fire at 6 a.m. Thursday. On the east side of the fire, crews are focusing on working from Sylvan Lake to the west creating a direct fireline from the lake to the power line road. On the west side firefighters are completing direct fireline on the southeast corner where the fire has crossed the Mount Thomas Trail.

West Fire, 3,401 acres, 41 miles southeast of Rock Springs, Wyoming on the WY/CO border. On Thursday crews are securing and strengthening fire lines on all sides of the fire. Unburned fuel inside containment lines will continue to burn and may produce smoke that will be visible as these interior pockets of fuel continue to burn inside established fire lines.

Trail Canyon Fire, 881 acres, 10 miles northwest of Red Mesa. The spread of the fire has been stopped.

Wild Cow Fire, 553 acres, 26 miles north of Fruita. The fire is being managed by Ross Wilmore and the Upper Colorado River Type 3 Incident Management Team. Not much additional information is available.

Strong wind spreads four wildfires in Colorado and Utah

The fires exhibited extreme fire behavior Sunday

Updated at 8:35 p.m. MDT June 21, 2021

Satellite photo, Colorado Fires
Satellite photo, Colorado Fires at 6:15 p.m. MDT June 21, 2021. NASA.

The satellite photo above taken at 6:15 p.m. MDT Monday shows the three large wildfires in northwest Colorado were very active at that time, with large plumes of smoke blowing off to the southeast.

10:16 a.m. MDT June 21, 2021

wildfires Northwest
Satellite photo of smoke from wildfires in Northwest Colorado and Northeast Utah at 6:36 p.m. MDT June 20, 2021. NASA.

Strong winds on Sunday caused four wildfires in northwest Colorado and northeast Utah to grow substantially. They are all in mountainous areas between 7,000′ and 9,400′. The three fires in Colorado listed here were all described as exhibiting extreme fire behavior. It is early in the year to have multiple large fires in Colorado. They are all in remote areas with difficult access and have the potential to continue to expand.

According to information available Monday morning there were a total of 84 personnel assigned to the four fires, which included one hand crew. With nearly 8,000 already committed to numerous fires in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and other states, it could cause a person to wonder about the availability of firefighting resources as we get deeper into the traditional fire season.

Oil Springs Fire
The largest of the four fires we’re looking at today is the 5,000-acre Oil Springs Fire in Colorado which has prompted evacuations. It has forced the closure of Highway 139 43 miles north of Grand Junction and 26 miles south of Rangely. Structures and oil and gas infrastructure are threatened. It is burning at elevations up to 7,400 feet. Winds gusting at 25 to 39 mph Sunday while the relative humidity was in the single digits resulted in the fire spreading several miles to the southeast and crossing Highway 139. A Red Flag Warning is in effect for the area just south of the fire. The wind is expected to decrease Monday but the RH will be in teens in the afternoon. Resources assigned to the fire Sunday evening included 3 engines, no hand crews, and no helicopters for a total of 20 personnel. A Type 2 Incident Management Team has been ordered. There are two other smaller fires 8 to 10 miles east of the Oil Springs Fire.

Sylvan Fire
The Sylvan Fire is burning above 9,000 feet 13 miles south of Eagle, Colorado just west of Sylvan Lake. The strong wind on Sunday pushed it about two miles to the southeast while exhibiting extreme fire behavior. Using early Monday morning heat sensing data from a satellite it appears to have grown to approximately 800 acres. As of Sunday evening there were no firefighting resources on the fire.

West Fire
The West Fire is 41 miles southeast of Rock Springs, Wyoming on the Wyoming-Colorado border three miles east of the Utah border. It is burning at elevations up to 9,400 feet. The early Monday morning heat sensing data indicates it has burned about 1,700 acres. Structures, oil and gas infrastructure, and sage grouse habitat are threatened. Resources assigned to the fire Sunday evening included 1 hand crew, 3 fire engines, and 1 helicopter for a total of 64 personnel.

West Fire
West Fire. Photo by Moffat County Sheriff’s Office June 20, 2021.

Sego Fire
The lightning-caused Sego Fire is in a very remote area of Utah 52 miles east of Price in rugged, difficult to access terrain. Smoke from the fire is very visible on the satellite photo at the top of this article. Heat sensing data indicates it had burned approximately 500 acres by early Monday morning.

Map wildfires Northwest Colorado and Northeast Utah
Map of fires in Northwest Colorado and Northeast Utah. The red areas indicate heat detected by satellites at 3:42 a.m. MDT June 21, 2021.

Southern California firefighters being tested by record heat and windy conditions

On Saturday there is a slight chance of isolated dry lightning strikes across the eastern San Gabriel Mountains during Red Flag Warning conditions

Above: Photo taken from the back yard of the USFS District Office in Alpine, CA during the West Fire July 6, 2018. USFS photo.

(Originally published at 9:20 a.m. PDT July 7, 2018)

The predictions for record heat in Southern California were accurate Friday as high temperatures soared into the triple digits. In downtown Los Angeles the old record for the date was broken by 10:15 a.m. when it hit the previous mark set in 1992 of 94 degrees. By the end of the day it was 108. The temperature at UCLA reached 111 degrees, the hottest temperature ever recorded there.

Other record-setting daily temperatures Friday in Southern California:

  • 117 – Van Nuys Airport
  • 114 – Burbank Airport
  • 115 – Ramona
  • 118 – Riverside

Firefighters were challenged by not only the heat but dry winds as fires broke out in several areas.

As the temperature reached 109 degrees, U.S. Forest Service firefighters on the Cleveland National Forest found themselves in a structure defense mode at their District Office in Alpine, with the West Fire adjacent to the building’s back yard and the rest of the 400-acre blaze across the street. Live footage shot by a local TV station showed numerous structures were destroyed.

forest service district office fire
Photo taken from the front yard of the USFS District Office in Alpine, CA during the West Fire. USFS photo.

On the Santa Barbara coast sundowner winds pushed the Holiday Fire through the hills above Goleta, burning 10 to 20 homes according to fire authorities. Even into the night temperatures at the fire scene remained above 100 degrees.

holiday fire goleta
At the Holiday Fire, Santa Barbara County Fire Department firefighters apply water at a home off Fairview Avenue in Goleta. SBFD photo.

The Valley Fire that started Friday has burned at least 1,000 acres near Highway 38 on the San Bernardino National Forest. At last report it was headed into the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. Mandatory evacuation are in effect for the Forest Falls Community east of the highway. Southern California Incident Management Team 2 will be assuming command.

Much of Southern California is again under a Red Flag Warning Saturday as the huge high pressure dome lingers over the area, bringing more of the same very high temperatures, 2 to 8 percent relative humidities, and gusty winds.

And just to make the situation more interesting, there is a slight chance of isolated dry lightning strikes across the eastern San Gabriel Mountains along with thunderstorm-driven winds.

map Red Flag Warnings, July 7, 2018
Red Flag Warnings, July 7, 2018.

West Fire burns numerous structures at Alpine, California

Above: The West Fire at Alpine, California. Screenshot from KUSI video.

(UPDATED at 4:37 p.m. PDT July 6, 2018)

CAL FIRE said the spread of the West Fire has been virtually stopped, but there is still quite a bit of active fire between structures that is threatening buildings. Firefighters will be working throughout the night to mitigate the threat.

(Originally published at 3:33 p.m. PDT July 6, 2018)

A destructive wildfire broke out during a heat wave in Southern California Friday. As the temperature in eastern San Diego County exceeded 100 degrees the West Fire started on the east side of Alpine and quickly spread through residential areas south of Interstate 8.

At 3:30 p.m. the fire had burned approximately 350 acres.

In viewing video shot by KUSI News, it appeared that many structures were likely victim to the flames.

There may have been a close call involving an inmate crew. The tweet below has an unfortunate choice of words, but the crew appears to be moving as rapidly as possible away from advancing flames.

The screenshot below from the KUSI video (at -41:20) was probably just after the crew “escaped” the flames only to have to confront traffic on the busy lanes of Interstate 8 which appeared to be fully open. They can be seen running at first.

inmate crew west fire alpine
An inmate crew appeared to have a close call on the West Fire on Interstate 8 at Alpine, CA July 6, 2018.

The video, if you can deal with the constantly panning camera, shows many examples of structures burning. I skimmed through and while I saw a couple of places with retardant on the ground, I only saw one air tanker, a 1,200-gallon S-2T, making a drop. I didn’t see any helicopters, but there could have been many aircraft that I missed or didn’t appear in front of the camera. Eight air tankers were reloading with retardant at Medford, Oregon Thursday while fighting the Klamathon Fire just south of the California/Oregon border.

West fire alpine CA
West Fire. Screenshot from KUSI video.
West fire alpine CA
West Fire. Screenshot from KUSI video.

From the photos below it appears that the fire burned up against the back yard of the USFS Descanso Ranger District office at 3348 Alpine Blvd. and was also very active across the street.