SALIDA, Colo. -- Strong winds helped fuel the Decker Fire burning south of Salida, officials said Tuesday.
The lightning-caused fire, which started Sept. 8, has burned 2,207 acres and is at 5% containment. It is burning 9 miles south of Salida in Chaffee County.
Heavy smoke developed over the fire on Monday and was seen for several miles. Fire activity increased significantly on the west side in a previously inactive area, officials said.
Strong winds helped push the fire north from the Green Rocks area toward Simmons Peak. The area is full of dense sections of unburnt fuel and flames soared to 80 to 100 feet at times.
The large smoke column was because of a large area of dead and down fuel that has built up in the forest for several years.
A red flag warning is in effect for the area on Tuesday with low humidity and gusty winds. Officials expect the fire to grow again toward the north.
Helicopters flew Tuesday morning to cool spots from Monday's advancement. Fire crews and bulldozers will continue to look for a fire line on the northern front.
Most of the fire is burning in inaccessible wilderness because of all the dead and down fuel. Only helicopter water drops can slow and cool the fire.
Heavy smoke will remain in the surrounding areas of the fire and officials say people driving nearby should not call 911.
A public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday at The Scout Hut (210 E. Sackett Ave.) in Salida to provide an update on the fire.