The Grizzly Creek Fire that sparked three weeks ago on Aug. 10 has now burned over 32,000 acres and is 73% contained.
As of Monday, Aug. 31, the wildfire is now the second most expensive in Colorado this year, costing about $25.5 million. The Pine Gulch Fire, which has been burning north of Grand Junction since late July, is more than four times the size and the most expensive at $28 million.
White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said it’s normal for a wildfire like Grizzly Creek to cost that much because of the rugged terrain and the number of houses and valuable structures nearby, like the Shoshone Power Plant. What’s not normal, Fitzwilliams said, is the number and size of wildfires in our region.
“The largest fires in Colorado’s recent history have all occurred in less than 20 years,” he explained.
Fitzwilliams said that taxpayers need to be proactive if they want to avoid spending millions of dollars salvaging their homes and land from future wildfires.
“We’re in a situation where we have a changing climate and a growing population -- more people, more development,” Fitzwilliams said. “We’re going to have more large fires.”
He suggested that planning wildland-urban developments with wildfires in mind and burning less fossil fuels are long term strategies that might take policy to change. In the meantime, he said homeowners can reduce fire risk by clearing out dry fuels and vegetation, including trees and bushes, around their homes.
Fire officials will be holding a live community meeting on the Grizzly Creek Fire Facebook page on Monday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m.