The Sopris Sun

Evacuation order lifted in Red Canyon Fire

Update: As of Friday morning, the evacuation order for homes near the Red Canyon Fire has been lifted. The fire is now 75% contained and several engines and two SEATs have been released from duty.

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Though the plume of smoke that shrouded the lower Valley on Monday evening has mostly dissipated, the Red Canyon Fire continues to burn along the flank of Lookout Mountain. For newcomers to the area, it’s an unnerving welcome to the arid West. For longtime locals, it dredges up not-to-distant memories of 2002’s Coal Seam fire, which torched more than ten thousand acres and at least two dozen homes, and 1994’s Storm King fire, which claimed the lives of fourteen firefighters. 
At an estimated 390 acres, the Red Canyon Fire has not yet approached the severity of either. After it’s initial flare up from 15 to 150 acres on Monday evening, the fire progressed fitfully, making short runs through mixed pinyon-juniper with islands of sage. Containment is at 27%, with about 100 personnel; two helicopters, two single engine and two heavy air tankers; a bulldozer; and roughly 20 engines assigned to fight the fire. Although resources have been difficult to obtain due to other fires across the west, the Rocky Mountain Area Incident Management Team A has been assigned to Red Canyon, and took command Wednesday at 6 am MST.

“Acreage has not increased due to some aggressive firefighting today,” Public Information Officer Bill Kight told the Sun on Wednesday, “If we can hold the line again tomorrow and make some more progress, I’d say we’ve pretty much turned the corner.”

To ensure the safety of the public and facilitate fire-fighting efforts, Red Canyon Road and Lookout Mountain Road are closed to through traffic and an evacuation order has been issued for homes east of the fire and north to I70. The American Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at Roaring Fork High School, 2270 Highway 133 in Carbondale, where displaced residents can obtain information and basic resources. Large animals are being lodged at the Garfield County Fairgrounds at 1001 Railroad Avenue in Rifle. An exodus of horse trailers from the area began with the pre-evacuation orders on the 22nd and continues from the surrounding area.

No determination has been made as to the cause of the fire, which started as a small blaze near County Road 115, east of highway 82 and about three miles south of Glenwood Springs, Monday afternoon. Lighting was observed in the area on Monday, and have been brought up as a possible source.