Jolley Mesa fire continues to grow |

Jolley Mesa fire continues to grow

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

SILT – Land owner Brett Jolley guesses that “millions” of dollars of his Jolley Mesa property three miles east of Silt has burned so far, with more than 540 acres estimated burned by late Thursday evening.Jolley, who owns the property with his brother, Kent, watched Thursday evening as the fire continued to burn their land and could only speculate on what the damage amount was.”Millions of dollars? I don’t know,” he said. “And now what’s a big, bald mountain worth? I can’t put a value on it. I’m watching a three-generation ranch burn up.”The fire, which broke out about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, was considered 50 percent contained early Thursday morning, according to Burning Mountains Fire Protection District chief Brit McLin.

But late Thursday afternoon winds and high temperatures pushed the containment back to 25 percent, according to David Boyd, public information officer for the Bureau of Land Management.More than 100 firefighters were working the fire Thursday evening, along with two heavy air tankers, a single-engine air tanker, an air attack and lead planes, a helicopter and three engines.Throughout Thursday morning and early afternoon, firefighters and a helicopter made water drops and were able to keep flare-ups in check. But temperatures over 90 degrees, low humidity and brisk winds resulted in a marked increase in fire activity around 5 p.m.”In late afternoon, the conditions got worse,” Boyd said. “There’s no estimate for containment, but an incident command team from Colorado is enroute and will take command on Friday.”

There are several residences in the area, but none were immediately threatened as of Thursday night.According to McLin, a multi-agency meeting was slated at 9 p.m. in Rifle on Thursday to discuss a plan for the fire.”The fire will be monitored overnight and we’ll be back at it in the morning,” McLin said.But McLin maintained that firefighter safety remained of utmost importance because “no weed in the Rocky Mountains was worth killing a firefighter for.”The cause of the Jolley Mesa fire, which started alongside County Road 335 past Apple Tree Park, is still under investigation, but authorities speculate it could have been from a cigarette butt thrown from a car.

“But we have no evidence to support it,” McLin said.Several other fires were also reported in the Glenwood Springs area on Wednesday, but had been extinguished by Wednesday evening, Boyd said.No injuries were reported at any of the fires.For the latest information about the fire, the public can call (970) 947-2825.

Post Independent staff writer Donna Gray contributed to this report.Fire bans were in place for most of the state Thursday. Gov. Owens imposed a statewide open burning ban Wednesday, including campfires and fireworks, throughout the state park system. The Bureau of Land Management imposed a ban on open fires June 15. The U.S. Forest Service announced it will impose a ban on the White River National Forest Saturday, June 24.Garfield and Pitkin counties both have fire bans in place as do Rifle, New Castle and Glenwood Springs.

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