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Western Colorado wildfires grow in warm weather, drought; Pine Gulch blaze now state’s 5th largest ever

All of Colorado is listed as being under some level of drought

The Grizzly Creek Fire is burning along Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon. (Handout)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Fueled by drought conditions, wildfires burning in western Colorado continue to grow in warm, windy weather.

The Grizzly Creek Fire east of Glenwood Springs, which has shut down a 57 mile portion of Interstate 70 for four days, had grown to 7.2 square miles by Wednesday night. It’s mostly spreading to the west into the No Name Creek drainage.

If it crosses the drainage, parts of Glenwood Springs north of I-70 would be put on pre-evacuation notice, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported.

Some homes east of Glenwood Springs have been evacuated.

Homes have also been evacuated by a wildfire that was started by lightning on July 31 north of Grand Junction. The Pine Gulch Fire had grown to 91.9 square miles and was 7 percent contained as of Thursday.

The 68,323-acre fire is the fifth largest in Colorado history. The fourth largest fire in state history was about 72,000 acres.

The Pine Gulch Fire near Grand Junction is burning on more than 68,000 acres. (Handout)

The closure of I-70 has forced drivers headed east or west across Colorado to take long detours around the interstate.

Colorado 82 over Independence Pass near Aspen was closed Wednesday after heavy traffic on the sometimes narrow mountain road, which was not a recommended detour, created unsafe conditions.

Multiple vehicles towing trailers became stuck on the pass, the Colorado Department of Transportation said.

CDOT is monitoring I-70 through Glenwood Canyon for potential damage from the fire. Officials say there have been rockslides.

There is no estimated time or date for when I-70 may reopen through the canyon. The route is a major artery between the Western Slope and Denver.

All of Colorado is listed as being under some level of drought.

Colorado Sun staff writer Jesse Paul contributed to this report.