GRAND JUNCTION — A portion of Interstate 70 remained closed in western Colorado on Tuesday because of a wildfire that broke out along the highway the day before, forcing drivers headed across the state to take long detours through the mountains.
When the fire was reported five miles east of Glenwood Springs, firefighters found large active flames in the highway’s median before the fire ran up the north-facing slope, U.S. Forest Service spokesperson David Boyd said. The fire grew to about 2 square miles (5.2 square kilometers) by nightfall.
The cause of the blaze, called the Grizzly Creek fire, was under investigation. It was not immediately threatening any homes and there have not been any evacuations, Boyd said.
The fire broke out on a portion of I-70, the state’s main east-west highway, that runs along the Colorado River.
Some rafters and their guides had to be evacuated from the river and hikers were also escorted down the trail from Hanging Lake, a popular destination nearby, The Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported.
The Colorado Department of Transportation says it must not inspect the interstate through Glenwood Canyon for damage. Officials are also worried about the potential for rockslides in the steep canyon above the roadway.
“Increased rockfall has been reported and is likely due to burned vegetation no longer holding rocks in place,” CDOT said in a written statement.
There is no anticipated time for reopening I-70.
Some residents elsewhere in Garfield County have been evacuated because of a 47.3 square mile (122.4 square kilometer) fire burning north of Grand Junction. It was started July 31 by lightning and is 7 percent contained.
Hot and dry conditions have resulted in high fire danger across Colorado. The entire state last week was listed as being either abnormally dry or under some kind of drought status.
The Colorado Sun contributed to this report.
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