COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The Pine Gulch fire, a lightning-sparked wildfire burning north of Grand Junction, exploded overnight, nearly doubling in size to become the seventh-largest fire in the state's history, fire officials said.
The fire, which started July 31, grew from 36,449 acres Tuesday to 51,455 acres Wednesday morning, according to the Bureau of Land Management. More than 650 firefighters are on site trying to increase containment, which remains at 7%.
Despite its size, the Pine Gulch fire is the second-highest priority among the fires burning in the state, said Larry Helmerick, with the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center. The top one is the 3,702-acre Grizzly Creek fire burning along Interstate 70 near Glenwood Springs which started Monday and is zero% contained.
Grizzly Gulch is within five miles of Glenwood Springs and has shut down 1-70 through Glenwood Canyon while more than 200 firefighters attempt to contain it in rugged terrain. The larger Pine Gulch fire is 18 miles from Grand Junction and has burned an abandoned structure.
Evacuations have been ordered in both.
Eight hand crews battled the Pine Gulch fire along with four large helicopters that carry up to 25,000 gallons of water and two smaller helicopters that carry buckets of water and retardant. Forty-seven engines and four bulldozers also were on hand.
Temperatures on the Western Slope have been in the 90s this week, with low humidity and strong winds, hindering efforts to contain the blazes.
"Mother Nature is not helping us," said Tracy LeClair, spokeswoman for the Pine Gulch fire.
No improvement in the weather is forecast for the rest of the week, with no break in the hot, dry and windy conditions expected.
Colorado Springs Fire Department has sent one if its wildfire brush trucks and three firefighters to Glenwood Canyon for up to two weeks to help out on the Grizzly Creek fire.
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