According to a late-night Wednesday press release from the Rio Blanco County Sheriff's Office, the Dragon Fire near Rangely is now 50 percent contained and still at the previously reported 322 acres. Officials called this "excellent progress."
While the fight against the Dragon Fire seems to be going remarkably well so far, officials have expressed concern about hazardous weather conditions ahead.
"Pray for rain," reads the press release, with gusts of wind of up to 50 miles per hour expected in the area on Thursday. Due to the winds, along with low humidity and dry fuels, a red flag warning is in effect from 9 AM on Thursday through midnight. The potential for fire activity remains high.
Smoke is visible from Highway 64, Highway 139, and Highway 40, along with the nearby towns of Rangely and Meeker. The blaze is located 15 miles south of Rangely.
While this fire is producing smoke in the local area, much of the smoke visible statewide is moving into Colorado from fires located in Arizona and New Mexico.
According to the US Drought Monitor, the northwest corner of the state is currently experiencing 'exceptional drought' conditions, the worst of the four stages of drought that are tracked by the service. As of June 4, the snow water equivalent in the Yampa & White River Basin, home to Rangely, was at just 42 percent of the to-date median. Much of the western slope is far below the median, particularly the southwest corner, with the statewide percent of median at 63 percent.
Many are concerned that dry conditions present in much of the western half of Colorado will lead to a long and dangerous fire season this year.