GLENWOOD SPRINGS — At shortly after 7 p.m. on Wednesday, the Red Canyon Fire had not grown appreciably over the course of the day, according to Bill Kight, public information officer for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team (RMIMT).
The fire is now estimated at 390 acres “due to better mapping,” Kight said.
The crew fighting the fire had grown, however, to a total of 211 people, including five hand crews of 20 firefighters per team, and the fire was estimated to be 27 percent contained, Kight reported.
He also reported that the estimated cost of fighting the fire to date is $801,000.
The fire continues to threaten some 20 homes in the area, and Kight said there is now a night crew which is specifically charged with protecting those homes from the flames.
The residents of those homes were evacuated on Tuesday, and have not been permitted to return to their homes.
The RMIMT includes personnel from several local fire departments as well as from the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Assisting with the effort to knock down the blaze are two large tanker planes, as well as two single-engine air tankers (SEAT), two helicopters and two “air attack planes used for reconnaissance,” Kight said.
Although the fire’s future behavior remains entirely unpredictable, Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson told the Post Independent at about noon on Wednesday that it appeared the fire was headed firmly eastward and somewhat northward, toward Glenwood Canyon but to the east of Lookout Mountain and away from Glenwood Springs.
Tillotson conceded that “it is possible” for the fire to reverse direction and head back toward Glenwood Springs.
But, he emphasized, “It would require more of an easterly wind than we’ve seen in the last two days.”
Kight said the fire has continued to behave erratically due to periodic wind gusts, and that the long-term prospects for containment are not known.
“Every day, we get these downflows from storm cells that travel over the fire,” he said, which can push the fire in unexpected directions.
Tillotson told the Post Independent at about 10 a.m. Wednesday that the growth of the area of the fire has been due to changeable winds that typically blow in the later afternoon.
“In two days, we’ve seen it move in two different directions,” he said.
At one point on Monday afternoon, Tillotson recalled, the fire’s direction of travel shifted toward the northwest, in the general direction of Glenwood Springs, “which contributed significantly to our anxiety.”
But on Tuesday, he said, the fire’s direction shifted again, this time toward the east/northeast, again driven by prevailing winds.
As of the noon update, County Road 115 (Red Canyon Road) remained closed to general traffic between the intersection with Highway 82 and the intersection with County Road 119 (Kindall Road).
“Every day, we get these downflows from storm cells that travel over the fire.”
Public information officer for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team