By Will Grandbois

Photo courtesy of Belle Markham

After consuming over 100 acres in a few hours on July 3, the Grand Hogback Fire near New Castle appears to have laid down and stayed put with at least 50 percent containment, according to Garfield County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Walt Stowe. 

“It didn’t really spread much beyond that,” he said. “We had a good breeze through come through (July 4) that would have flared anything up that wasn’t pretty well out.”

The fire reportedly started  on private land near County Road 335 on the south side of the Colorado River and Interstate 70 — though it was close enough to the highway for images to begin popping up on social media shortly after it began growing. 

No structures were threatened and or evacuations planned although access along County Road 335 was limited and power was turned off in some places.

With 12 Single Engine Air Tankers and two K-max helicopters employed to fight the fire in steep terrain on the south side of the Colorado River, the Sheriff also issued a reminder that fires are a no fly zone. Firefighting operations near Durango were recently grounded by drones in the area — a potential federal offense.  The public was also asked to refrain from stopping along I-70 to view the ongoing operations. 

With the air resources — all but one helicopter have since been released —and ground resources from Colorado River Fire Rescue, Glenwood Fire, Interagency Fire, BLM, Colorado State Engine 6221 from Rifle and a crew of 20 “Lone Peak Hotshots” from Utah, the cost of fighting it are expected to exceed $100,000. 

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but it does not appear to have been related to the smoldering coal seam that runs through the area.

“It looks like the fire started along the roadway,” Stowe said. 

Meanwhile, the five acre Clark Creek Fire north of Rifle is approaching 100 percent containment and the Gutzler Fire in Eagle County has grown to 300 acres.