Fire crews quell blaze near Rifle |

Fire crews quell blaze near Rifle

Dennis Webb Glenwood Springs correspondent

Crews on Sunday controlled three area wildfires sparked by a lightning storm Friday. They also responded to several small new fires triggered by another storm yesterday.The biggest of this weekend’s fires was one on the south face of the Grand Hogback, about eight miles north of Rifle near Highway 13.Hal Coombs, assistant fire management officer for the Upper Colorado Interagency Fire Management Center in Rifle, said the center aggressively attacked the fire with a combination of engine crews, helicopters and air tankers.”It had a lot of potential to get large,” he said.The fire burned about an acre in an area with a lot of downed trees that had been cleared and piled up decades ago in an attempt to create wildlife habitat, Coombs said. Fire crews were concerned by the amount of fuel and the opportunity for the fire to spread uphill.However, Coombs now expects the fire to be all but out by today.Also Sunday, crews declared under control small fires near Windy Point and Mitchell Creek in the Glenwood Springs area. Coombs expected the three smoke jumpers who responded to the Windy Point fire to be pulled off the scene later Sunday.A five-person ground crew responded to the Mitchell Creek fire. Smoke jumpers were unable to get to it from the air because there was no safe landing area. Some members of the public first fought the fire.Friday’s storm caused other small area fires as well, most of them involving single trees, Coombs said. Another storm Sunday resulted in about 275 lightning strikes in just a two-hour period over an area covering four U.S. Forest Service ranger districts and local Bureau of Land Management property, Coombs said.He said Sunday’s storm resulted in a number of single-tree fires, and the center took action against four of them. Those were located south of Parachute, and south of Silt and New Castle in the Gibson Gulch area, he said.Coombs said the fire danger ranges from moderate to high on local public lands. Rain has kept humidity high and vegetation green, but conditions are changing.”As these fuels dry out we’re expecting more and more [fire] activity,” he said.With the Fourth of July being celebrated today, Coombs noted that fireworks are banned on federal lands.He said the center has responded to probably about 20 to 25 wildfires so far this year.

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