GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Tinder dry conditions and lightning were counted as the main causes of wildfires that burned approximately 1,200 acres in Garfield County last summer.
Three of the fires were in the Rifle area in June, starting with the relatively tiny conflagrations of the Beaver Creek Fire (smaller than 10 acres), on the south side of the Colorado River, sparked on June 14. Not long afterwards, the Ward Gulch Fire near Rifle Falls State Park got under way and ultimately grew to nearly 400 acres.
The Ward Gulch Fire burned for several days, from June 14 to June 18, prompting evacuations in the Grass Valley area and around the Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery. It brought out a small army of fire fighters from federal, state and local agencies.
And just after the Ward Gulch blaze was brought under control, on about June 18, a new fire broke out.
The Brush Creek Fire, north of Rifle and about three miles from the site of the Ward Gulch Fire, quickly grew to about 400 acres and also burned for several days before it was contained.
The area enjoyed a period without any major fires until Aug. 12, when a lightning strike at the top of Red Canyon Road sparked another blaze in the dry brush.
The Red Canyon Fire, which at one point came within sight of the neighborhoods of Glenwood Springs and could be seen from as far away as Carbondale and up Three Mile Canyon, ultimately consumed nearly 400 acres at the head of the canyon and around the base of Lookout Mountain. The fire also caused the evacuation of about 20 homes in the area, but no injuries were recorded among the residents and only minor injuries among fire fighters.
The fire was reported to be contained by Aug. 16, although fire officials cautioned that the scene would likely smolder for weeks or even months until the embers all burned out.