Colorado Pine Gulch Fire Puts Ranchers’ Livelihoods At Risk

by Jennifer Shea

The biggest wildfire in Colorado history has burned through tens of thousands of acres, including ranches and wildlife habitat.

The Pine Gulch fire started in the area north of Grand Junction, Colorado. Lightning caused the fire, the Associated Press reported. 

The blaze has left local ranchers scrambling to save livestock and hoping for news from the Bureau of Land Management about reseeding the land. But some say their recovery prospects are grim.

“Even when the fire stops there is so much to worry about,” rancher Todd Brackett told the AP. 

For one thing, there is erosion caused by rains after the wildfires, with no plants left to block the water’s path. For another, there is the lack of grazing land for cattle and other animals.

The embattled ranchers of Colorado have had a rough year. Western Colorado has experienced a severe drought. And that created ideal conditions for wildfires, of which there are several in Colorado. There is the Grizzly Creek Fire, the Cameron Peak Fire, the Williams Fork Fire and the Pine Gulch fire.

The Pine Gulch fire has been raging for over a month, since July 31. By early September, it had charred over 139,007 acres, or 217 square miles, according to the Denver Post. It was about 95% contained by this week, KBTV Channel 9 reported.

The fire has drawn more than 600 firefighters, according to the Daily Sentinel. Local residents have worked together to provide free meals to the firefighters and to help ranchers bring their belongings and their hay to safety. But they have a lot more heavy lifting ahead of them.