LOMA, Colo. – Fire activity for the Pine Gulch Fire has finally quieted down. Colorado’s largest wildfire in history remains at 139,000 acres burned with 81% of the flames contained. And although there is no fresh fire activity, there is still some heat in the southwestern perimeter near old coal mines. Fortunately, fire crews are monitoring that situation while they also start to repair the damage.
Today, KREX’s reporter, Krista Spadaccini, had a closer look at the northwest section of the Pine Gulch Fire near Loma. She was able to see the effects of the blaze as well as see the efforts fire crews took a few weeks ago to slow the spread. She also met with the fire repair team to hear its plan to get the mountains as close to its natural conditions as possible.
In the north-west section of the mountains, what used to be green grounds is now burnt bushes, and although the change is shocking, without firefighter intervention, fire officials say the damage would be far worse. Firefighters fought fire with fire by doing a burn out at the top of the ridge. If those fuels weren’t burnt, there was a chance for the flames to continue down the hill and across the field, up to the next ridge.
Throughout the mountain fire crews built pathways for bulldozer access that doubled has control lines. Here, firefighters were looking to remove any type of vegetation that could have been burnt.
In addition, the control lines prevented the destruction of the cottonwood galleries. Christopher Joyner from the Pine Gulch Fire team says, “we were able to put in a bulldoze line on the interior of these cottonwoods, and I think there is maybe two or three cottonwoods that got burnt.” The cottonwood gallery is a huge part of the valley’s culture, and locals are happy they are safe.
Because fire crews say there is no longer fresh fire, they are now less focused on fighting flames and ready to repair the damage. Over the next few weeks, fire repair crews will be fixing any BLM roads or county roads. Their goal is to get the area to pre-fire conditions. And while completing repairs, the team will also monitor watersheds to prevent flash floods or mudslides. And soon a BARE team will arrive to the area to seed the damaged vegetation. Afterwards, fire crews say it is mother nature’s job.
The fire team is also working hard near Douglas Path and Route 256 to reduce closures and make it easier for people to enjoy hunting season.