The 6,100-acre Decker fire on Salida’s doorstep has been declared the nation’s top priority wildfire, putting it first in line for firefighting crews and aircraft.
The wildfire, which started from a lightning strike Sept. 8, grew another 230 acres by Sunday morning and remains only 5% contained, according to a Rocky Mountain Incident Command news release.
The fire is burning in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness and has come within two miles of Salida, a city of about 5,200 people in Chaffee County.
Along with the return of drought conditions after a wet spring and early summer, crews battled high winds Saturday.
The National Interagency Coordination Center ranked the Decker fire No. 1 in its daily national situational report. The classification helps allocate resources, said Patrick Costin with the Incident Command team. A quiet Colorado wildfire season helped bump the Decker fire to the top, he said.
A fire that burns more than 5,000 acres is known as a Class G fire, the largest category of wildfires, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
Sunday morning, an additional 76 firefighters joined crews already trying to get the upper hand on the spreading flames, the news release read.
Twenty three hand crews, 28 engines, three dozers, six helicopters, three aircraft and 10 water tenders — a total of 806 firefighters — were assigned to the fire by Sunday morning, according to wildfiretoday.com.
The Bureau of Land Management issued a temporary emergency road closure for BLM lands in Saguache County. The closure covers areas east of U.S. 285 from Poncha Pass on the north to the vicinity of Rock Creek on the south side, a BLM Facebook post read.
“On Saturday, the Decker Fire continued burning downhill in Division Alpha on the west side of the fire,” read a Decker Fire update Facebook post. “Backing fire burns with lower intensity as it cleans dead material from the forest floor. Colorful foliage remains intact as the fire burns along the forest floor.”