As the Mullen Fire continues to grow, firefighters are preparing a surge team to defend the Centennial Valley.

Art Siegel, chairman of Albany County Fire District No. 1, told the Albany County Board of Commissioners Tuesday morning that a team of engines is prepared to deal with spot fires caused by hot embers carried downwind.

“They come down anywhere,” he said.

He said he’s seen hot embers carried as far as three miles, though most fall within a half-mile of the fire line.

“Getting those spot fires put out immediately really stops the spread of the entire fire,” he said. “In the open area of the Centennial Valley, I think it will be pretty effective.”

The surge team consists of almost 20 fire engines from around the county, with a back-up team from Goshen County also available.

“We can call them in if we need them,” Siegel said.

As of midday Tuesday, the fire was listed at 151,000 acres with 14% containment, mostly on the western edge and along the burn area of the 2012 Squirrel Creek Fire to the east.

Seigel told commissioners that there’s very little containment on the Albany County side of the fire, which is why evacuation areas on the eastern side appear to be far from the fire line and homeowners are not being allowed back into those areas.

“This fire is going in all directions,” he said. “The winds are unpredictable, therefore the fire is unpredictable. It is a considerable risk to allow people back into those areas where containment has not been established.”

Siegel also reiterated the importance of the closure of Wyoming Highway 230, which is serving as a 25-mile-long fire line to the south between Wycolo and the junction with Colorado Highway 125.

“It appears the fire’s southern progress, at least for now, has stopped,” he said. “We’ll test that when the wind changes again. We’ll see if that holds up.”

As of Tuesday morning, the Southern Area Blue Team took over management of the fire from the Rocky Mountain Blue Team.

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