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Pine Gulch Fire Facts

On July 31, 2020, the Pine Gulch Fire was started by a lightning strike.

The fire began approximately 18 miles north of Grand Junction, Colorado.

Initial Attack resources were unable to corral this remote wildfire as it spread rapidly through grass, sage, pinyon-juniper, and fir. 

The combination of various factors led to weeks of active burning. These factors included: 

  • Drought-stressed vegetation
  • Unseasonably hot weather
  • Steep terrain

Smoke columns were often visible from Grand Junction and the surrounding area as the wildfire exhibited extreme fire behavior.

Photograph of Pine Gulch Fire area with Sheriff Vehicles and smoke clouds in the background.

During the night of August 18, 2020, the fire grew quickly due to a thunderstorm.

Conditions included winds up to 40 mph, lasting for a three to four hour period.  

As a result, the fire increased by more than 30,000 acres that night.

Firefighters worked to protect homes and outbuildings using a combination of bulldozers and hand crews to build fire lines. Road systems were used as control lines where crews initiated firing operations to slow the fire spread. 

As of August 27, 2020, Pine Gulch Fire became the largest wildfire in Colorado State history.

It surpassed the Hayman Fire that burned near Colorado Springs in the summer of 2002. The Pine Gulch Fire burned in both Mesa and Garfield Counties. It shut down Highway 139 for several days.

By the year's end, the Pine Gulch Fire was surpassed by:

  • Cameron Peak - Fire covered 208,913 acres.
  • East Troublesome Fires - Fire covered 193,812 acres.
Photograph of Pine Gulch Fire. Fire Worker standing with Fire burning in the background

    On September 12, 2020, control for the fire returned to local agencies. 

    Complete suppression repair of areas damaged by actions taken to contain the fire, such as retardant drops and building fire lines, were completed.

    On September, 23, 2020, the Pine Gulch Fire reached 100% containment.

    Fire crews also completed the majority of the suppression repair. The fire covered 139,007 acres.

    Pine Gulch - Fire Map