Lines cut around 60 percent of Peak 2 fire zone in Breckenridge, evacuation still on
BRECKENRIDGE — The Peak 7 neighborhood remained on evacuation Thursday morning and officials gave no timetable for when it could be lifted, citing the unpredictability of the 83-acre Peak 2 Fire burning less than two miles away.
The Farmer’s Korner, Gold Hill and Silver Shekel neighborhoods remain on pre-evacuation, along with the town of Breckenridge. An evacuation center has been set up at Summit Middle School in Frisco.
The fire hasn’t seen any significant growth since Wednesday evening, after it tore up the side of Peak 2 in a spectacularly fast run before being stifled by a shift in the wind.
The fire is still only seven percent contained, although incident command says suppression lines have now been cut on roughly 60 percent of its perimeter. That doesn’t necessarily translate to containment, however, because officials aren’t yet confident that the fire won’t cross some of those lines.
The rugged terrain at the fire zone in the Miner’s Creek drainage remains a major challenge for firefighters, forcing them to negotiate thick, steep timber and standing dead beetle-killed trees that can fall without warning.
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The risk of those falling trees has slowed the cutting of suppression lines, and officials urged patience on that front.
“There is no more risky fuel profile than what those people are operating in,” said incident commander Todd Pechota of the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team, which took over for the Forest Service at 6 a.m. “We can’t call all of that contained quite yet because, quite frankly, I’m scared we’re going to get someone killed up there — not by fire but by a (beetle-killed) tree failing over.”
Pechota’s 56-person team will direct the roughly 100 personnel currently fighting the fire and has requested another six crews, or 120 more people. Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs described the group as the “Navy SEALS of firefighting.”
Currently, hand crews are focusing on the fire’s northwest and southeast flanks. They have also had to deal with extensive spot fire containment; yesterday alone, crews found at least 150 separate fires outside of the main perimeter.
“It’s very, very nasty up there,” Pechota said.
Stage 1 fire restrictions for the White River National Forest went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning, prohibiting campfires except in developed, metal fire pans and banning smoking except in areas devoid of vegetation.
The county government and Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne have imposed fire restrictions as well, and danger remains high.
Nonetheless, Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District chief Jim Keating said his department has responded to at least five unattended campfires this morning despite the intense fire danger and extremely high profile wildfire burning in the area.
“It’s been an epidemic this morning,” he said. “It’s very irritating — there’s really not a word to describe it.”
All of those campfires, he said, had so far been tamped down quickly.
Officials expect the fire to behave roughly the same as it did yesterday, with little major activity and no additional growth.
Yesterday, crews benefited from solid cloud cover throughout the morning and early afternoon, but Friday morning was sunnier and warmer. More clouds, however, are expected to roll in throughout the day and keep temperatures cooler.
There is a slight chance of rain, about 15 percent, but it would be unlikely to significantly impact the fire. At around noon, light rain fell on Frisco.
U.S. Forest Service officials say they don’t expect the fire to be fully put out until the monsoon cycle kicks into gear in the next week or two, providing a couple of inches of water in a single storm.
Two engine groups are currently working on structure protection in Breckenridge and Frisco. They are focusing their patrols on the Peak 7 neighborhood, the Gold Hill area and south side of Frisco.
The Peaks, Wheeler and Gold Hill trails remain closed until further notice, along with Miner’s Creek road and a section of the Colorado Trail. Highway 9 was briefly closed on Thursday for helicopter activity but that was not expected to happen again today.
Peak 2 Fire information:
Twitter: @Peak2Fire #Peak2Fire
Summit County Emergency Blog (English & Spanish): SummitCountyCO.gov/emergencyblog