Wildfire near Carbondale forces evacuation of four residences | AspenTimes.com

Wildfire near Carbondale forces evacuation of four residences

Ryan Graff
The Glenwood Springs Post Independent

A wildfire that started in a hayfield west of Carbondale Tuesday afternoon spread to 50 acres and forced the evacuation of at least four homes.

By evening, 26 firefighters were working the blaze, officials were considering evacuating other residences, and a U.S. Forest Service helicopter and hand crew were on their way.

The Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District received a smoke report about 4 p.m. and found one acre of the hayfield on fire. The field is east of Dry Park Road.

By 5 p.m., the fire had burned 10 to 15 acres near the road, estimated Carbondale Deputy Fire Chief Rob Goodwin, who was managing the firefighting efforts.

Gusting winds blew the fire in every direction at times, and by 5:15, the fire spread across the hayfield and up a brush-covered hill to the east.

“There’s no end in sight right now,” Goodwin said.

The Snowmass and Basalt fire departments both sent a brush truck to the scene yesterday afternoon and evening, said a Pitkin County dispatcher.

Crews used water trucks, a bulldozer, a backhoe and hand tools to battle the blaze. Firefighters sprayed water directly on the flames, while others worked on hot spots along the flank.

Around 5:30 the fire reached the top of the hill and stopped spreading east. A shift in the wind, in addition to bulldozed fire lines, helped smother the fire’s north end. Firefighters then shifted their efforts to the south end.

“If the wind would stay down, we’d get a handle on it,” said Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Mike Piper after he took command. With maps, the fire commanders figured out the blaze was actually burning in the Glenwood Springs Rural Fire Protection District.

By 6:30 p.m. a Forest Service-contracted air tanker, capable of carrying 750 gallons, had arrived and was making practice passes at the fire.

The tanker made about four fire-retardant drops along the south side of the fire.

By 7 p.m. about 40 firefighters had arrived from surrounding fire protection districts, said Piper.

By 7:30 p.m. the fire was about 25 percent contained and had burned 50 acres, according to Jenny Cutright of the Carbondale Fire Protection District.

Four homes were evacuated along Four Mile Road, but no structures were threatened at press time.

Elsewhere around the state, a wildfire burning juniper and pinon north of the city grew to 700 acres and was threatening up to six seasonal cabins and ranch buildings.

At another wildfire on 20 acres of private land in Park County, sheriff’s officials warned residents to be prepared to evacuate. The fire, believed to be lightning-caused, appeared to be slowing by evening.

Gusts of up to 40 mph propelled the wildfire 34 miles north of Grand Junction through grass and shrubs dried by days of temperatures in the 100s, said Steven Hall of the Bureau of Land Management. The high in Grand Junction Tuesday was 103.

Eight smokejumpers, fire engine crews from nearby communities, a single-engine air tanker and a helicopter battled the fire burning in a remote area. Hall said five or six structures were threatened and fire crews were on scene to protect them.

The fire was reported at 40 acres at about 3:30 p.m. but firefighters revised that three hours later to 550 acres.

It is the largest wildfire this season that crews are trying to control, said Larry Helmerick, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, which coordinates federal fire-fighting efforts.

A lighting-caused fire near Meeker has burned at least 1,200 acres, but crews are allowing it to burn for the environmental benefits, Helmerick said.

A 25-acre, lightning-caused fire burning north of Durango, near the site of last year’s 71,000-acre Missionary Ridge fire, was also being allowed to burn for environmental reasons, he said.

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