Brush fires keep crews busy over weekend |

Brush fires keep crews busy over weekend

John Gardner

RIFLE ” Area fire crews were busy with brush fires between March 13-15.

Garfield County Sheriff’s Deputies assisted local fire departments with controlled burns that grew out-of-control near New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute. One of the fires reportedly burned 15 acres off County Road 300 near Parachute.

According to a Sheriff’s Office report, three of the people responsible for burns were issued court summons for fourth degree arson.

Rifle Fire Protection District’s Fire Marshal Kevin Whelan said that crews responded to five brush fires over the same two-day period. At least three overlap with the Sheriff’s Office report.

Three of the five burns were “controlled” burns that went out-of-control, Whelan said, and one was a controlled burn where the tender did not notify the fire department of the burn. In those cases the fire department responds to the call as any other, and it’s one of the main reasons fire departments appreciate people intending to burn to notify the local fire agency beforehand.

“Our main goal is that we know they are going to (burn) so we are not running false calls and that they are doing it safe,” Whelan said.

That is also the intention of the RFPD’s burning permit process, to ensure that the fire department knows that a burn is going to happen, but also, to ensure that the tender is educated on how to burn safely.

Rifle has a burn permit policy in place where anyone intending to burn has to apply for a permit through the fire department at no cost. Permits required burns to be done within two weeks from the permit’s issued date, with the exception of agricultural burns which are valid for on year from issuance.

Ironically, this set of fires coincided with a Saturday meeting where Carbondale Fire Chief Ron Leach pleaded with local ranchers to support a new burning permit process similar to the one Rifle already has in place.

“If it will be the same process, we don’t know,” Whelan said. “It would be nice if Garfield County had the same policy.”

An unreported burn in April 2008, near County Road 100 west of Carbondale, started a brush fire that threatened 150 houses, forced the evacuation of residents and even injured an angler near the Ranch at Roaring Fork.

While all of the burns reported this weekend were extinguished without much more than some minor damage to fences, a telephone pole, a utility pole, and one threatening a structure, the possibility for any burn to grow out of control is always there, Whelan said.

“It’s important to be safe,” Whelan said. “Whenever you put fire on the ground, you’ve got to be careful.”

It was unclear Monday whether or not any of the property owners had received a burn permit.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

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