Fire burning south of Glenwood Springs grows to more than 150 acres

John Colson
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Drew Munro /

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A wildfire near the top of Red Canyon Road (Garfield County Road 115), where the road breaks out of the red rocks and cedars and in to the hilly terrain that veers toward Spring Valley to the east, reportedly had scorched more than 150 acres of ground by 7:30 p.m. Monday, about four hours after it started.

Walt Stowe, public information officer for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, said at 8:38 p.m. that officials fighting the fire were reaching out to “the BLM and anybody else who feels they can get involved. It’s rapidly reaching the point where it can get beyond our ability to control, with our resources.”

He said that officially there had been no evacuations ordered by fire or law enforcement authorities, although pre-evacuation alerts had been issued to some homeowners and there had been anecdotal reports of some people evacuating on their own.

A man named Hans Haberern, who lives on Heather Lane off Red Canyon Road, was observed making multiple trips up to his home pulling a two horse trailer to evacuate the 18 horses he had on his property.

Monday evening there wasn’t much traffic, but a few horse trailers were heading out of the area and a handful of onlookers lined County Road 115 about a mile east of the roadblock at Kindall Road (County Road 119), until the fire began to settle around 8:30 p.m.

Among the onlookers were Glenwood Springs native Jolene Varley and her friend Evan (no last name given).

“I used to live up here. This is my third fire,” said Varley. “I remember seeing Storm King (South Canyon Fire) when I was a kid, and then Coal Seam.”

Evan added that he’s from the East Coast and has never seen a wildfire.

Varley was also celebrating her birthday.

“I can think of less interesting ways to spend my birthday,” she said.

A shelter for large animals has been set up at the Garfield County Fairgrounds in Rifle should people feel the need to evacuate their animals from the Red Canyon area, according to Stowe. Animal owners will need to bring food and other items their animals may need while at the shelter, he said.

As of 10 p.m., “The fire has laid down for now and plans are being made for the best approach for tomorrow,” Stowe said in a prepared statement. At that time, he reported the fire was zero percent contained.

Smoke from the fire laid thickly over Glenwood beginning at about 7:30 p.m., especially in the southern portion of the city where it resembled fog under the street lights. Once darkness set in, a pulsing red glow could be seen above the ridge top where the flames were not directly visible, and a light coating of ash dusted much of the city.

The fire was first reported to cover about 3 acres, according to a release issued at 8:07 p.m. by the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District, and was burning in the pinion-juniper forest near the Crystal Light subdivision.

According to Ron Biggers, fire marshal for the Glenwood Springs Fire Department, the fire was initially encountered approximately a half-mile up a dirt road off CR 115 that leads back toward Lookout Mountain, which overlooks Glenwood Springs from the east.

No structures had been reported lost, and no injuries were reported as of 8 p.m., according to the Carbondale Fire Department release.

A total of five fire departments, from Basalt to Rifle, were jointly fighting the Red Canyon Road blaze as of shortly before 6 p.m., according to Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson, with about 25 firefighters in all.

At that time, he said, the winds had died down from a series of thunderstorm-spawned gusts earlier in the afternoon, giving the firefighters a chance to attack the blaze.

Tillotson said slurry-bombing planes had been dumping flame retardant chemicals on the fire, but it was continuing to burn.

Stowe said there was no way to predict whether the fire would continue to spread overnight.

“It all depends on what the wind does tonight,” he said.

Post Independent staff members John Stroud and Drew Munro contributed to this story.