Although firefighters have not been able to establish containment lines around the 118,000-acre Mullen Fire, they have successfully battled the fire in a number of other ways, a member of the fire management team battling the flames said Thursday.
Bill Waln, deputy incident commander for the Rocky Mountain Blue Team, said the more than 900 firefighters now working the fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest have been able to make advances in building fire lines to slow the fire’s spread and have been able to protect both humans and buildings.
“We’re learning how to redefine success on this fire,” he said during a briefing Thursday evening. “It’s a beast by any stretch of imagination. It just wants to go and go.”
About 60 buildings, including 29 homes and 31 outbuildings, have been destroyed near Lower Keystone, Lake Creek and Foxborough, but Waln said many more buildings have been saved.
“Yes, we’ve lost a few homes and that is not a very good thing,” he said. “But we’ve saved a lot more homes and a lot of values at risk have been protected.”
One of the priorities for firefighters Thursday was conducting controlled burns along Colorado Highway 127 to create a buffer to the fire as it continues moving to the south and further into Colorado, said Deon Steinle, operations section chief trainee for the Rocky Mountain Blue Team.
“We’re wanting to do this in anticipation of continued wind events and low humidity,” he said. “If we can get this fire line in, it will provide a very good buffer to any more spread.”
He added that as firefighters move inside the perimeter of the fire, they’re finding that the fire burned quickly and moved on without leaving long-lasting areas of flames.
“What we’re seeing is really good consumption in this fire,” he said. “Which means (fuels) burn pretty quickly and then they’ll be out. It doesn’t linger a really long time.”