Suspect arrested in Rulison blaze
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
RULISON, Colo. ” Garfield County Sheriff’s deputies have arrested Nicholas Hatcher, 26, on a fourth-degree arson charge after he allegedly discarded a lit cigarette that apparently started a wildfire on Tuesday evening.
Hatcher allegedly flicked a lit cigarette into a barrel then left it unattended; a short time later Hatcher noticed the brush on fire, according to authorities. After his arrest, police discovered he was the subject of four outstanding warrants, including two for driving under the influence. Hatcher’s bond has been set at $9,000.
The fire ” near Rulison, west of Rifle ” has burned approximately 150 acres on private land, according to David Boyd, public affairs specialist with the Bureau of Land Management.
A burn ban in effect in Garfield County makes outdoor smoking illegal unless the activity takes place in a clear area.
The fire was reportedly 50 percent contained by Thursday morning. But, according to a press release from the Rifle Fire Protection District, additional crews were to be assigned to the fire Thursday morning to begin “final containment and extinguishment.”
Lee Rickard with the Upper Colorado Interagency Fire Management Center, who was assisting, said the area is being mapped and the fire appears to be 100 percent contained, though he could not verify that figure.
Rifle firefighters, the Grand Valley Fire Protection District, Burning Mountain Fire Protection District and the Upper Colorado Interagency Fire Management Center jumped on the fire quickly and managed to get a head start on containing the blaze, according to Rickard.
Grand Valley firefighters were dispatched to the area between county roads 320 and 309, just after 7 p.m. Wednesday, where a wildfire was burning 20 feet from a structure near Rulison.
High winds and dry fuels on the steep hillsides hampered the initial attack on the fire. Crews started back burns to help slow the fire Wednesday evening, according to reports.
Several structures and gas wells were threatened but no damages have been resported.
“We hit it hard last night,” Rickard said. “I would say that was the key.”
Rickard credited the Idaho City Hot Shots crews, who were already on hand to help in the final stages of putting out the New Castle fire on Wednesday, for helping crews get a quick start in fighting the Rulison blaze.
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Glenwood Springs police and community mourn the loss of Zeus, who died in his sleep the night of May 5. The longtime K-9 officer loved and lived to work, with a drive second to none and he continued to serve the community up until a month before his retirement.