Lightning-sparked fireclaims barn, 40 acres |

Lightning-sparked fireclaims barn, 40 acres

Post Independent/Kelley Cox Alpine Hotshots of the Rocky Mountain National Forest work on hotspots after a Garfield Creek wildfire burned down a barn and 40 acres Saturday and Sunday.

NEW CASTLE – A lightning strike ignited an abandoned barn on Garfield Creek Road southwest of New Castle Saturday afternoon, burning the nearly 100-year old structure to the ground, and setting off a 40-acre wildfire, according to Sean Mello, incident commander for the Burning Mountains Fire Protection District. Crews contained the fire by Saturday night, though firefighters were on site Sunday, cleaning up the burn area by laying a wet line around the border of the fire, dousing burning embers, and using shovels and picks to break up hot spots. Twelve firefighters from the Burning Mountains district responded to the blaze. Approximately 20 firefighters from the Alpine Hotshots, a team based at Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, also responded to the fire. They had been dispatched to Grand Junction due to the high fire danger there, so were in the area at the time.

No one hurt, no private land burnedMello said several people saw the lightning strike hit the barn between 1-2 p.m. Saturday during a dry lightning storm. “With the storm, we got high winds,” Mello said, which caused the fire to spread to the pasture surrounding the barn. The fire hit only public property within Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area boundaries. The barn was on fish and game property, but had not been in use at the time of the fire. Also lost in the fire were three round bales of hay cut on the state Division of Wildlife’s property. No one was hurt in the incident, and no private land burned.

‘A month of Sundays’New Castle rancher Brett Jolley was on site Sunday morning, standing alongside County Road 312, the Garfield Creek Road.He and Mello talked about the fire, amidst the thick smell of burned wood and vegetation, faint streams of smoke still coming off of blackened soil and trees. Jolley, who owns expansive pastures adjacent to the blaze, said he was thankful crews worked quickly to contain the fire. “I was on the Gunnison River fishing when the lightning hit,” said Jolley. “By the time I got here, they had it out.”

A clear demarcation line at Jolley’s fence line was evident – charred pasture grass marking the wildlife area property, with healthy pasture grass on the rancher’s land beyond. “If the fire had hit that hill…” Jolley said, his voice trailing off.”If it’d hit that hill, we’d have been here for a month of Sundays,” said Mello. Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext.

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