Pine Gulch becomes largest wildfire in Colorado history

The Pine Gulch wildfire grew to 139,006 acres on Thursday, surpassing the 2002 Hayman fire as the largest fire in Colorado history. But the two fires remain far apart in terms of property destruction, as well as in other means of measuring wildfire.

The Hayman fire destroyed 132 homes and 466 outbuildings northwest of Colorado Springs as it burned through vast stands of ponderosa pine, douglas fir, aspen and spruce. It was the second most costly fire in terms of insured losses.

The Pine Gulch fire, which is now 77% contained, is burning mostly on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands, forcing evacuations, road closures and power outages, but burning few if any structures.

More than 900 firefighters remain on the Pine Gulch fire, burning about 18 miles north of Grand Junction. The fire was started on July 31 by a lightning strike.

The Hayman fire was human caused, started by Terry Lynn Barton. She was convicted in 2003 of starting the destructive fire and she served a federal prison sentence, released in 2008. She was court ordered to pay $14 million in restitution.

Hayman cost a total of $238 million, including at least $39.1 million for rehabilitation, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Five firefighters died in the Hayman fire. No casualties have been reported as a result of the Pine Gulch fire.

Costs on the ongoing Pine Gulch fire have not yet been released. Weather forecasters expect an increased chance of moisture over the fire area Saturday. Too much rain, however, will bring the threat of flash floods and debris flows.

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