Literally hot on the heels of the destructive Fourmile Canyon fire near Boulder and the Reservoir Road blaze outside Loveland, the Church's Park fire, not far from Fraser, is the latest conflagration to threaten the region. At this writing, the fire isn't at the doorstep of any structures, but it's 0 percent contained, and a spokesman expects it to grow. Learn more, and see photos below.
As of last night, the fire was said to have consumed 300 acres -- but while the total's now up to 450 acres, John Bustos, public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service, which is in charge of the fire, stresses the change doesn't mean the blaze has grown by 50 percent this morning.
"Last night, it was smoky and dark when we pulled crews off the fire," he says. "It was hard to get a good idea of the actual size. Now, we have a more accurate estimate of the fire acreage -- but we expect that acreage to go up today."
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The reason for this prediction has to do with an assortment of factors. Conditions remain dry, although temperatures and humidity are more moderate than during the worst stretch in the fight against Fourmile and Reservoir Road, and winds should stay beneath the ten miles-per-hour threshhold. However, there's plenty of fuel on which the fire can feed -- "a mixture of downed and dead lodgepole pines, as well as standing dead lodgepole pines and open meadows with grasses and shrubs," Bustos says.
"This is the epicenter of the beetle epidemic in Grand County," he continues. "There are considerably more dead, beetle-killed trees here" than at either Fourmile or Reservoir Road. "And, of course, there are two big problems with that. First is the fire-behavior problem -- the way it'll burn if we do get some weather on them. But second is the danger posed to our crews by falling trees. Because of the dead roots, they can fall whether there's wind or not. So our crews really have to keep an eye on those dead trees."
At last report, there were approximately 200 people fighting the fire, from departments such as Granby, Kremmling, Hot Sulpher Springs and Grand Lake. Also taking part are four helicopters, with five heavy air tankers ready in Denver should they be needed. Right now, the fire is two miles from the nearest structure -- hence, no evacuations yet. But Bustos says the fire fighters on the line aren't taking the situation lightly. After all, they've seen what damage fire can do under these conditions.
Click here to get the latest updates on the fire, and page down to see new photos of the blaze.