By Jamie Leary

UPDATE: Lightning Strike Started Black Mountain Fire In Grand County

GRAND COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The Black Mountain Fire in Grand County grew to 170 acres Monday night. It was one of 37 new starts across the state over the last several days.

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The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) recorded 37 new fire starts between Friday and Saturday through its multi-mission aircrafts, or MMA’s. Adding to the count, is the Black Mountain Fire, which was reported Sunday around 1 p.m., northeast of Kremmling.

(credit: CBS)

“That was a fairly high number for us. It was a record day for us actually, so I think the right environmental conditions existed for there to be a drier environment and lightning didn’t have a lot of precipitation associated with it,” said Rocco Snart, the Planning Branch Chief for the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control. “That gave us quite a big opportunity, and it was fairly widespread across the state of Colorado looking at the spread of lightning.”

Snart said while the causes for the new starts are undetermined, there’s a high likelihood that a lot of them were lightning caused. Snart says when weather allows, aerial missions to spot or monitor fires are part of a daily routine for the state.

“The flight crews take their jobs seriously when they’re out there looking for lightning for folks because they know it can make a difference in helping folks find a fire and prioritize,” he said.

A multi-mission aircraft flew over the Black Mountain fire Monday to map the fire and provide real time intelligence and mapping, including the perimeter and hotspots.

While the fire has moved slowly since it began, it’s only around two miles east from the start of the East Troublesome Fire, which began in October of last year. Once again, people in the area are ready to evacuate.

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(credit: CBS)

“We hooked up our horse trailers, so our horses are safe, and we have an evacuation plan what we want to take and stuff like that,” said Grace Whal.

The Wahl family ranch is about a mile from the start of the Black Mountain fire, in an area under pre-evacuation. Grace, 15, is more concerned about her neighbors to the east, who suffered major impacts from the East Troublesome fire last year.

“I think we’re fine because we have sage, and it doesn’t travel as fast over sage, and we’ve got wetlands and rivers,” she said. “I actually have a lot of teachers who live on the east side of the county and some of them were affected by that fire and so I can see it first-hand how it affected people.”

(credit: CBS)

Grace saw the start of the fire Sunday afternoon and said within an hour of speaking to dispatch, there were helicopters using the pond in her backyard to make bucket drops.

While her family stayed safe during last year’s fire, she knows now how unpredictable fires can be. She’s optimistic this fire will be contained but still cautious.

“We have had rain, but it still is a drought, and we still have those drought conditions,” she said. “We need moisture badly, but we also have to be very careful and very vigilant in what we do and how to prevent this.”

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For the latest information on pre-evacuation notices, you can sign up for alerts through the Grand County Office of Emergency Management.

Jamie Leary