Bull Draw Fire north of Nucla grows 11,000 acres in three days

Monday, Aug. 13, 2018 5:34 PM
Progression of the Bull Draw Fire, reported Aug. 12.
Crews working to fight the Bull Draw Fire north of Nucla conducted burnouts Thursday between the fire’s edge and indirect control lines.

The Bull Draw Fire, burning in a remote area 12 miles northwest of Nucla, has grown to 19,800 acres – up 4,723 acres in 24 hours – Type 2 Blue Team said.

Since Thursday, the fire has grown more than 11,000 acres, from a reported 8,700 acres on Thursday to 19,900 acres on Sunday.

Containment decreased to an estimated 12 percent, down from 13 percent on Friday and 35 percent on Thursday. The fire’s estimated containment date was pushed back nearly a month, to Sept. 15.

The fire is considered the top priority in the Rocky Mountain region, meaning that the team would be the first to receive new resources. By comparison, the Plateau Fire north of Dolores was ranked No. 3.

The 31-square-mile fire continued to push toward the southeast and continued to grow in the north and west,

“The fire grew 1,135 acres since our last morning update,” the incident command said. “The Bull Draw Fire is a long duration fire. Fire acreage will continue to grow as the fire naturally progresses towards indirect containment lines.”

On Saturday, the fire reached private property at Campbell Point in Mesa County. Crews were assessing the area for threats to structures, and staff were assigned overnight to monitor the area. So far, no homes have been destroyed.

Crews on the northeastern side of the fire were preparing the Divide Road for burnout operations. Hand crews and heavy equipment worked to build a fire line through the 2004 Campbell Fire scar and planned to connect it to Divide Road. After the fire line is built, crews plan to begin burn operations, burning out areas between the fire and containment lines.

Aircraft monitored the southwestern and western edge of the fire.

In the southeast area in Montrose County, crews were expected to work the next several days to build firebreaks east toward the 2004 Campbell Fire scar.

The fire has been consuming heavy fuels and carrying burning through more resistant fuels such as aspen and pasture, according to the incident team, led by commander Brian Pisarek.

About 298 personnel were assigned to the fire as of Sunday.

Fuel moisture remains low, and there is still potential for severe fire behavior.

Storm cells surround the fire on Sunday, but little rain was expected. Moderate afternoon winds from the north-northeast will push the fire south-southeast. Temperatures were expected to remain in the mid-80s on the ridges and low 90s in the valleys, and relative humidity was expected to be in the teens and low 20s. Significant upslope fire runs to the north, west and east were possible.

The fire remained active Friday on the northern, Mesa County side. The fire has crossed South Fork Mesa Creek and overnight approached cabins in Campbell Point. Yesterday, helicopters dropped water and slowed its advance.

Much of Thursday’s growth came in the east, and the fire pushed southeast in Montrose County, where it was slowed by helicopter water drops.

In the northeast, burnout operations stalled the fire as it advanced toward Divide Road, which is a focal point for firefighting crews on the ground and in the air.

Along the south and southwest flank, hand crews continued to monitor for heat along existing fire lines.

A section of the western flank remained lightly staffed, and fire managers scouted the area for opportunities to engage the fire.

On Thursday, crews planned to extend and hold hand lines.

On Wednesday, an additional hand crew assisted hand line construction and efforts to hold the southwest section. Most of the crew activity and engine resources focused on the protecting structures in the northwest.

The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests on Wednesday closed about 17 miles of Divide Road.

On Monday and Tuesday, the Bureau of Land Management implemented an emergency closure for the Bull Draw area, including Montrose County Roads S15, S17, R23, Z26, and all BLM roads, trails and land.

Although the fire forced the evacuation of a home and several cabins last weekend, no structures have been lost, public information officer Kimberlee J. Phillips, of the U.S. Forest Service, said in a press release.

The Minnesota Incident Command System Type 2 Blue Team assumed command earlier this week. It is a more robust, federal team than the state-based Type 3 team that had been in place since July 31. The team is using the Nucla Community Center for fire operations.

Smoke from the Bull Draw and Buttermilk fires continued to impact residents in Delta and Montrose counties, which have faced air quality advisories all week.

The Buttermilk FireThe Buttermilk Fire is burning in piñon/juniper vegetation in the rugged Lime Kiln drainage area 15 miles northeast of Montrose in the Red Canyon area.

On Thursday, it was estimated at 746 acres, and containment was 70 percent. Firefighters continued to mop up hot spots.