9:14pm

Mon March 21, 2011
Colorado Wildfires

Erratic Winds Fan Wildfire West of Golden

Fire crews had their hands full Monday tackling a trio of blazes in western Jefferson County.  The largest, the 850 acre Indian Gulch Fire west of Golden has forced a hundred homeowners to flee, and hundreds more are on notice that they too may need to leave if conditions worsen.

Meantime, Monday evening Jefferson County sheriff's officials said crews expected full containment on two smaller blazes near Evergreen.  One structure was reported lost.  But no homes had been reported to be destroyed on the Indian Gulch blaze as of Monday evening.

The Indian Gulch Fire began Sunday morning.  It’s grown steadily thanks to daytime temperatures hitting the mid 70s and single digit humidity.  

"It’s making things very difficult for the guys on the fire line," said Jacki Kelley, spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's office.  

Near an incident command post in the Mountain Ridge Subdivision just west of downtown Golden, some residents watched the skies nervously as a big plume of smoke billowed over the hill above them.  Smoke could be seen across the Front Range.  Some homeowners ran their sprinklers around the perimeter of their property.

Kelley said the weather continues to be a major factor.

"The challenge for our firefighters on the mountains are really high winds, one moment it’s nice and calm, and the next they’re dealing with 35 to 45 miles per hour gusts," Kelley said. 

Fire crews are bracing for more of the same Tuesday. But they hope to take advantage of cooler temperatures as the fire dies down in the morning. 

That’s typical for wildfires, as it’s typical for wildfires to occur year round along the Colorado Front Range. 

While the most of the mountains still have bountiful snowfall, much of eastern Colorado is in the grips of a severe drought.  The Indian Gulch Fire is the second large wildfire to hit the Colorado Front Range this month.  A blaze near Boulder that began March 11th blackened more than 600 acres.