Ward Gulch Fire Estimated at 485 Acres, Authorities Work to Contain Blaze
RIFLE, Colo.- The Ward Gulch Fire continued to burn just north of Rifle Gap State Park on Sunday. The blaze was caused by lightning on Thursday night and has spread to an estimated 485 acres, as of Sunday evening. “We are doing a combination of a few things,” said Pat Thrasher, fire information officer for the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management. “Certainly we have fire fighters on the ground. We currently have 4 crews and we also have an air operation using both a helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft delivering a combination of water and fire retardant on the fire.” Starting on Saturday morning, a type three agency team assumed responsibility for the fire and plan to manage it over the next couple of days. This is a group Thrasher says has certain skills to help put out this fire. “As a precaution, residents living north and east of the fire have been evacuated and there have been a number of road closures being carried out by the Garfield County Sheriffs Office,” said Thrasher. One road closure in particular is Highway 325, cutting off access to Rife Falls State Park and Rifle Falls Hatchery, and leaving Carl Dupper and his family unable to visit the tourist attraction. “It just seems that every summer, our entire state just lights on fire and then winter comes and puts it all out,” said Dupper. The fire was estimated at 60% containment as of Sunday evening. Officials say if the fire grows in size or complexity, it could be handed over to a different management team. However, they are confident they will have the fire under control soon. "There was a lot of retardant that was put on the ground and that helped slow things down," said Glenn Adams, public information officer for the Ward Gulch Fire. "We had crews on the ground, and two large helicopters that were putting water on the fire, as well as one small helicopter and our hand crews and engines." In addition to Highway 325, a number of Rifle area attractions will also remain closed until further notice. Boating is prohibited and shorelines access is limited at Rifle Gap State Park. The Harvey Gap State Park remains open, but only motorboats with 20 horse power engines or less are allowed in the water. The Red Cross has opened a shelter for residents looking to take advantage of the voluntary evacuations for the Ward Gulch Fire. The shelter is currently on standby since no evacuees have so far planned to utilize the shelter. The shelter is at the Garfield County Fairgrounds, at 1001 Railroad Avenue. Since the shelter is on standby, its doors are not open at this time, but the area has been stocked with supplies just in case the need arise.