Big Fish blaze breaks out
Sue Froeschle, spokeswoman for the White River National Forest, said the fire had grown from 125 to 600 acres and was threatening some 50 structures.
“They have initiated evacuations of Trapper’s Lake Lodge and Campground and Rio Blanco Ranch,” said Froeschle.
Himes Peak Campground also was being evacuated.
The fire is located about 30 miles north of Glenwood and 38 miles east of Meeker.
As recently as Thursday morning, the Big Fish Fire, named for a lake near Trapper’s Lake where it first began, was not considered a serious threat. The WRNF had not been actively fighting the fire, which was burning in an area designated for letting fire play a natural role.
Just Thursday morning, a dispatcher at the Grand Junction Air Center, which provides air support to Western Slope firefighters, had said the fire was burning through blown-down trees and other dead fuel, which was precisely the goal being sought in not fighting it.
“At this time, in terms of a resource standpoint, it’s not doing anything but good,” said Kevin Conran.
That changed with the fire’s rapid growth Thursday afternoon.
“Now that it’s going near structures and it’s rapidly moving, they are going to be bring in some additional firefighters,” Froeschle said. “There’s a tremendous fuel load and I think it’s working it’s way right through that.”
The fire is burning in heavy downed spruce stands and dead spruce trees that were killed by heavy winds in the 1940s and ’50s, she said.
The area had been managed by the WRNF, but with its growth management was transferred to a fire use management team, added Froeschle.
When a fire isn’t actively fought, trigger points are established so action can be taken if it becomes a threat. In this case, Froeschle said, a plan to protect structures from fires is being followed.
“They had a plan in place if it did go in that direction and they have begun implementation.”
The fire was sparked by lightning nearly a month ago. It had remained stagnant, at about 50 acres, until this week, when its growth was encouraged by low humidity levels and high winds, said Conran.
Froeschle said she couldn’t speculate on the possibility of the U.S. Forest Service being second-guessed for not attacking the fire before Thursday.