Iron Mountain fire quickly doused with fast helicopter response

John Stroud
Glenwood Spring Post Independent
A type 1 helicopter drops a large tank of water onto the fire that started on the northeast side of Iron Mountain late Monday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Glenwood Springs Post Independent

A quick air and ground attack on a wildfire that started along Transfer Trail below the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on Monday evening, prompting a park evacuation, averted what could have been an extremely dangerous situation.

“The fire covered about 2 or 3 acres, and we were lucky there was not a lot of wind going on at the time,” Garfield County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Walt Stowe said Monday night.

“If there had been any wind at all, it could have blow back toward some cabins and been a real problem,” he said.

As it turned out, “it was almost a non-event,” he said. “Getting those helicopters in here as quick as they did was the big difference.”

The fire was reported on BLM land near Transfer Trail below the Adventure Park a little before 6 p.m., and by 6:30 p.m. two helicopters were on the scene making the first of two water drops that stopped the fire in its tracks before it had a chance to spread.

“After the second water drop, the threat of the fire spreading was diminished significantly,” Stowe said in a news release sent out about 7:20 p.m.

After the air attack, two members of the Glenwood Springs Fire Department remained on scene with a Garfield County Sheriff’s sergeant and BLM crews to build a containment line around the fire area.

“The fire appears to be on BLM land,” Stowe said, adding any continued operations will be handled by the BLM.

According to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park Manager Nancy Heard, the  park was evacuated in 35 minutes via the tram.

She said the fire started just north of the top end of the park, looking down toward the old quarry.

The park had just conducted a fire drill last week, Heard said.

“We have an evacuation procedure that’s been in place for a decade, and we practice it once a year,” she said.

Staff had training last Tuesday and conducted a formal drill on Wednesday, going over a couple of different scenarios using both the tram and buses to get people off the mountain, depending on the situation.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

The incident occurred as crews were completing mop-up on the Oak Meadows Fire that broke out near the subdivision by the same name along Four Mile Road Friday evening. It, too, was knocked down quickly and was never a serious threat to nearby homes.

Also Monday, Glenwood Springs Fire responded to a small fire in the South Canyon area where a pile of furniture and other trash was on fire. And, a fire broke out at the Garfield County Landfill west of Rifle. Both fires were extinguished quickly, Stowe said.

A heightened fire danger continues in Garfield County, where restrictions and outright bans on fireworks, open fires and outdoor smoking remain in place in all or parts of the county.