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Pine Gulch Fire becomes largest wildfire in Colorado history, burning over 217 square miles near Grand Junction

The Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest near in California began on Aug. 17, 2013 and is under investigation. The fire has consumed approximately 199,237 acres and is 32% contained. U.S. Forest Service photo by Mike McMillan. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)
August 29, 2020

The Pine Gulch Fire became the largest wildfire in Colorado history on Thursday, surpassing 217 square miles near Grand Junction and eclipsing a 2002 blaze that still ranks among the nation’s most intense conflagrations.

Sparked by lightning on July 31, the Pine Gulch Fire has burned through 139,006 acres of remote terrain in western Colorado, with containment at 77%, according to InciWeb. Fire crews have shifted their focus from fire suppression to suppression repair to minimize damage to soil, water and other natural resources, according to Incident Commander Dan Dallas.

The Hayman Fire, which scorched 137,760 acres near Colorado Springs in 2002, had been the state’s largest wildfire. The arson-caused blaze that destroyed 600 structures remains one of the most severe wildfires with respect to burning intensity, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Hot and dry weather conditions persisted at the Pine Gulch Fire on Thursday, with winds gusting up to 20 mph. Area thunderstorms did not directly affect the fire, according to officials. There’s a 15% of “wetting rain” going into the weekend, Dallas wrote in his report on InciWeb.

The Pine Gulch Fire is one of four major wildfires burning in Colorado, including the Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon, the Williams Fork Fire in Grand County and the Cameron Peak Fire near Redfeather Lakes.

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The Grizzly Creek Fire, which forced a two-week shutdown of Interstate 70 in both directions after sparking on Aug. 10, had burned 32,302 acres and was 61% contained as of Thursday night. The interstate reopened Monday following the longest-ever closure for one of the state’s busiest east-west corridors.

The 10 largest wildfires in Colorado history, by acreage, have all flared up in the last 18 years. Here’s the list, according to Denver7:

Pine Gulch Fire (2020): 139,006 acres

Hayman Fire (2002): 137,760 acres

Spring Fire (2018): 108,045 acres

High Park Fire (2012): 87,284 acres

Missionary Ridge Fire (2002): 72,962 acres

416 Fire (2018): 54,000 acres

Bridger Fire (2008): 45,800 acres

Last Chance Fire (2012): 45,000 acres

Bear Springs/Callie Marie fires (2011): 44,662 acres

117 Fire (2018): 42,795 acres

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