John Stroud and Matthew Bennett Post Independent staff
A wildfire that erupted at the upper end of the Oak Meadows subdivision along Four Mile Road south of Glenwood Springs late Friday afternoon grew to about 40 acres and prompted some evacuations in the area.
The fire was first reported about 5:15 p.m. and crews arrived to find the fire burning in an area about 200 yards long, and growing rapidly, Garfield County Sheriff’s spokesman Walt Stowe.
By about 9 p.m., the fire had slowed down for the night and the last air drop was being made, he said.
“A great deal of progress was made today,” Stowe said, adding residents were allowed to return home at 10 p.m. once power to the area had been restored. Residents were advised to expect smoky conditions through the night and Saturday.
Seven hand crews were ordered in to attack the fire Saturday morning, along with more air support. Friday before sunset, there was one large tanker plane and two single-engine air tankers working the fire, in addition to 50 fire personnel.
“It’s right on the ridge above Oak Meadows, and it’s a definite concern because I am a property owner up there,” said one resident, Daniel Pagni. “I’ve been mitigating for a good year, because there’s a lot of fuel up here and it’s nothing we can do.”
A cause has not been determined, but a construction crew that was working on a water line in the area indicated it may have started at a transformer behind a residence on Aspen Way, at the far south end of Oak Meadows.
Matthew Graham, manager of Heyl Construction, said his crew was finishing work installing a new water line on nearby Oakland Knoll when crew member Jose Salais spotted the fire, Graham said.
Quick work by him and other members of the crew to run to the fire and dig a trench before firefighters arrived helped keep the fire away from houses in the area, Graham said.
“Our guys went down and got a water truck and rakes and kept the fire away from those houses before the wind shifted away toward Carbondale,” he said, adding there are about 35 houses in that part of the Oak Meadows neighborhood.
Members of the Heyl crew included superintendent Kent Olson, foreman Ranchero Chavez, John Smith, Salais, Sam Macias and Rafael Wahlburg.
Graham said the owner of the house was inside at the time, and unaware of the fire until they notified her.
Stowe said evacuations were suggested by command staff on the scene, but were not ordered by the Sheriff.
There was no estimate of containment Friday night. Stowe advised that private drones are not to be used anywhere near the fire area.
“If one drone goes up there it will shut down all of the air drops until it’s known that the drone is out of the area,” he said.
There was no evacuation shelter established, but if one is set up it would likely be at Sopris Elementary School, Stowe said.
The fire is burning on a mix of private and public land, and Glenwood Springs Fire Department is taking the lead in the joint command with the Sheriff’s Office. The BLM was also called in for support, as were Carbondale Fire and Colorado River Fire Rescue.
Fire officials were also working to get permission to allow bulldozer in to help with the firefighting efforts, Stowe said.
Cooler temperatures were expected overnight, however the National Weather Service is issuing a red flag warning for Saturday from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m., calling for high winds, high temperatures and low humidity.
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