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Pine Gulch Firefighters Details Fight Against Colorado's Largest Wildfire Ever

LOMA, Colo. (CBS4) - With progress made on the Pine Gulch fire in recent weeks, CBS4 was given the opportunity to see first hand how crews were finally able to stop it and the work that still needs to be done.

"We had sustained 40 mph winds on that fire with these really dry fuels, and so we see those large pushes, and that's where we try and get ahead of the fire and get a game plan going to bring it down safely to a halt," said Eric Coulter, Public Information Office for the Pine Gulch Fire.

pine gulch fire night 1 (inciweb)
Pine Gulch Fire (credit: Inciweb)

Coulter along with a handful of fire officials, led media on a trek down a dusty dozer line to the northwestern perimeter of the fire, just outside the town of Loma.

"In a way, there's still a lot of work to do with the suppression repair," Coulter said, pointing to rocks and uprooted brush, a result of the dozer.

The goal now? To clean up the lines firefighters dug.

"They'll clean this up, scatter some of the brush, and make it water friendly for erosion."

At the fire's peak, sustained winds caused it to grow by more than 20,000 acres in one night. It jumped containment lines, but firefighters found a way to get ahead of it.

The dozer line was one of the tactics used. The other? Burn out operations.

PINE GULCH FIRE 5VO.transfer_frame_260
(credit: CBS)

"So, this was done ahead of the time the fire was getting to this point," Coulter said.

Firefighters used drones to start controlled burns to which eliminated fuels the Pine Gulch fire would've otherwise moved through quickly.

"It's fighting fire with fire," he said.

Once it hit the dozer line, firefighters were able to get control.

"It is kind of… a bit of a warrior fighting one battle at a time and there's some nights, like the one where we had the large growth where the fire kind of beat us, and then we had times where we kind of won, and just slowly kind of getting through those multiple battles, and getting there, there's definitely a feeling of success of you know? We can kind of bring this to a closure," said Coulter.

As of Wednesday, the fire was listed at 139,000 acres and 81% contained.


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