Spring Creek Fire claims over 130 homes in Colorado as dozens of fires rage in western US

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
July 05, 2018, 9:36:32 PM EDT

The Spring Creek Fire in southern Colorado continues to expand in size and is now said said to be the third-largest wildfire in Colorado history.

The blaze which is burning in Costilla and Huerfano counties in Colorado has destroyed over 130 homes and remains 5 percent contained. Since it began on June 27, near the town of Fort Garland, it has exploded in size and burned more than 103,000 acres.

Huerfano County Emergency Management ordered additional evacuations in communities in the northern part of the county Monday.

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The Spring Creek Fire as seen from Fort Garland, Colorado. (Photo/Spring Creek Fire Incident Management Team)

Colorado Highway 69 had been closed for a time on Monday for firefighting operations, but was reopened late Monday night, Colorado Department of Transportation officials said.

Officials anticipate the blaze won’t be contained until the end of July.

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“Overall fire activity is expected to be less than previous days, however, fire will remain active in the heavier fuels as the day heats up,” officials with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team said on Thursday, July 5.

Jesper Joergensen, 52, has been arrested for starting the fire, according to ABC News. On Saturday, a drone forced officials to halt firefighting operations from the air.

Over 30 large wildfires are burning uncontained across the western United States.

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Firefighters battle a wildfire burning in Guinda, Calif., Sunday, July 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

In Northern California, the County Fire has burned approximately 88,000 acres and is 33 percent contained in Napa and Yolo counties. The blaze is threatening nearly 1,000 structures, but none have been destroyed or damaged so far.

“The potential for growth remains high as crews battle the fire in difficult terrain. Firefighters continued to work through the day to construct new containment lines and defend structures impacted by the fire,” Cal Fire officials said Monday.

Over 3,400 firefighters are working to contain the blaze, and numerous air tankers from throughout the state are dropping water on the fire when conditions allow.

The cause of the County Fire is under investigation.

Significant wildfire relief is not on the way this week. However, some monsoonal-type thunderstorms could arrive over this weekend in the Southwest.

AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark said these storms could prove to be a double-edged sword.

“We’re looking at hot weather to continue with [the] potential for some scattered afternoon and early nighttime thunderstorms that could bring some spotty rain, but could also cause lightning-induced fires,” Clark said.

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In Utah, the Dollar Ridge Fire began around 1 p.m. in Wasatch County, Utah on July 1. On Monday, the Duchesne County Sheriff’s Office ordered approximately 200-300 homes to evacuate.

The fire has burned an estimated 42,000 acres according to InciWeb and is 4 percent contained. The cause of the blaze is believed to be related to human activity.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declared a state of emergency on Tuesday night due to the high fire danger.

The fire has forced the closure of U.S. Highway 40 in both directions in Duchesne County from milepost 44 to milepost 80.

Helicopters and air tankers were unable to be used due to high winds on Monday.

According to the fire incident report, fire crews had been making progress in establishing an anchor point and construction of containment lines but had to withdraw from the line in several areas with the most fire activity along the north and northeastern edges of the fire for safety reasons.

"Additional structures have been lost although an accurate count still has not been established as the area is deemed too dangerous to do a proper damage assessment," officials said.

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