Gusty winds and dry conditions could send smoke plumes from the Decker fire skyward, unfurling embers across the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, authorities say.

The 6,326-acre wildfire, which started from a lightning strike Sept. 8, grew another 160 acres by Monday morning and remained only 5% contained, according to a Rocky Mountain Incident Command news release. It’s now burning 2 miles south of Salida, a city of about 5,200 people in Chaffee County.

The Decker fire ranked No. 1 in the daily national situational report by the National Interagency Coordination Center. The classification helps allocate resources, said Patrick Costin of the Incident Command. As of Monday morning, 882 firefighters were assigned to the fire, the news release said.

Aerial crews hoped to attack the fire from above Monday, joining 23 hand crews, 28 engines, three dozers, six helicopters and 10 water tenders already battling the blaze, according to

The Red Cross evacuation center, at 210 E. Sacket Ave. in Salida, reopened Monday morning and will continue serving meals until 7 p.m. It will also be open Tuesday.

More smoke is likely in the area, and authorities warned drivers to proceed slowly on roads north of the fire.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an air quality health advisory for wildlife smoke Monday for southeastern Chaffee County, northwestern Fremont County and eastern Saguache County. The advisory is in effect until 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The fire’s rapid growth last week spurred officials to order evacuations for several neighborhoods south of Salida.

According to the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, orders were lifted Sunday for residents in:

• Fawn Ridge subdivisions

• County Roads 110, 111, 111a

• Mountain Vista Estates and those living above Mountain Vista Estates, accessed by County Road 104

• East of County Road 104, accessed from private drives south of U.S. 50 with the exception of residents living on County Road 101

The Rocky Mountain Incident Command team published an interactive map online for hunting information, forest closures and the fire’s perimeter.

Reach Olivia at Twitter: @oliviaprentzel

Reach Olivia at

Twitter: @oliviaprentzel

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