More than three weeks since it first began the Decker Fire burning near Salida continues to gain strength.
The blaze, which was sparked by lightning September 8, has grown to 1,500 acres.
Large clouds of smoke could be seen Monday as far away as Colorado Springs and parts of northern El Paso County.
According to the US Forest Service, Monday’s heavy smoke stems from flames in the Swindinski Creek area and burning in the drainages of Round Tree Hill along the southwest side of the fire.
Crews tell KRDO that the fire certainly grew in acreage on Monday. However, there is no telling how much.
Many viewers sent in photos and voiced concerns as the smoke was very prominent along the landscape. In the past few hours, the settling smoke has caused the smoke concentrations to increase. At certain times in Salida, the smoke levels increased to the point where if the levels were to be sustained for 24 hours they would be considered unhealthy air quality.
The Decker fire isn’t threatening any structures yet, but firefighters are taking precautions. On Monday and over the weekend crews set up emergency sprinkler systems outside many mountain homes that first would be at risk should the fire spread further.
“Of course we’re closely monitoring the fire spread,” said Patrick Seekins with the US Forest Service. “All those home owners have been well-informed on why we’re on their property and why we may be there in the future.”
Three weeks ago crews told us they would take a wait and see approach before sending ground crews.
But, with heavy winds and a dry climate, that strategy has ended.
“Our tactics have slightly changed with the increased conditions and heavy forecasts,” said Seekins. “We are taking a proactive approach. Placing crews in the right spots where they can safely engage.”
Currently, around 200 firefighters from all over the country are battling the flames. US Forest Services say the Decker Fire is 5% contained. However, this fire likely won’t be 100% contained until snow begins to fall.
Due to current critical fire conditions, the area will be under a red flag warning for at least the next several days.
Fire crews will be available to answer questions at a public meeting 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 8 at the Scout Hut at 210 E. Sackett Avenue in Salida.
KRDO Only 2019