Rifle wildfire destroys home | AspenTimes.com

Rifle wildfire destroys home

The Associated Press

RIFLE, Colo. ” A 1,300-acre Colorado wildfire has forced the evacuation of at least 40 homes and destroyed at least one residence, authorities said today as they warned that gusty winds could force more people to flee.

The fire, which was reported Thursday, was burning between Rulison and Rifle, an area of intense natural gas development about 190 miles west of Denver. Authorities estimated the fire’s size at between 1,500 and 1,800 acres Thursday night, but lowered that estimate today.

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said the fire was calm overnight, but has not been contained and wind gusting to 25 mph may force more evacuations. He also said some residents will be allowed to return home today “at their own risk.”

The fire has burned a home, four other buildings and a gas well operated by the Williams Co. energy firm, Vallario said. He also said a firefighter suffered a broken arm.

The Rifle Senior Center was opened to evacuees.

Early today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the blaze.

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FEMA Director David Paulison approved Colorado’s request for a Fire Management Assistance Grant at about 3 a.m. At the time of the state’s request, approximately 115 residences were threatened, with a mandatory evacuation in place for 50 homes and 65 homes under a voluntary evacuation. Several natural gas wells and power lines were also being threatened.

The authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of the state’s eligible firefighting costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating and controlling designated fires.

Fire Management Assistance Grants are provided through the President’s Disaster Relief Fund and made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster. Eligible items can include expenses for field camps; equipment use; mobilization and demobilization activities; and tools, materials and supplies. The grant does not include assistance to households and businesses.

Watch aspentimes.com for updates on the fire today.