Lightning sparks 20-acre blaze north of New Castle |

Lightning sparks 20-acre blaze north of New Castle

An interagency team of 50 firefighters was battling a 20-acre wildfire six miles north of New Castle Monday, said Zone Fire Management Officer Frankie Romero.

The Spring Creek Fire is located in the Clinetop Mesa area of the Flat Tops. No structures are threatened, but the Forest Service is recommending that people not hike Spring Creek Trail, No. 2068 on Forest Service maps.

“The trail is below where the fire is,” Romero said. “Rolling debris could come down from the fire. We’re asking people to use common sense.”

Roads in the area, including the popular Clinetop and Buford to New Castle roads, remain open.

Romero said smoke from the Spring Creek Fire was visible from Interstate 70 between Rifle and Silt, but was difficult to see from New Castle.

The fire’s primary fuels are spruce and fir. The most difficult area to fight is down in the steep Spring Creek canyon. The fire was only 5 percent contained Monday afternoon.

Romero said the fire was caused by a lightning strike, which he suspects occurred on Friday.

When the fire was reported at 2 p.m. on Saturday, it covered three acres. A crew of 10 Grand Junction-based smokejumpers dropped into the fire 30 minutes to an hour after it was reported, he said.

“They were on a patrol flight,” Romero said.

The other 40 firefighters are local U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management employees.

Three helicopters are being used to fight the fire.

Romero said it’s hard to tell whether the number of firefighters will be increased.

“Fortunately, we haven’t had any high winds,” Romero said. “They are holding their own. The fire continues to grow, but not by leaps and bounds.”

The Forest Service rates fires from 1 to 5, and the Spring Creek Fire is a Category 3.

Most of the work being done is up on top of the Clinetop Mesa, rather than down in Spring Creek. “We’re reluctant to put anyone down in the canyon bottom,” he said.

The closest lakes to the fire are Adams Lake and Elk Lakes. “This isn’t a huge recreation area, but it does get a fair amount of use during hunting season,” Romero said.

Weather through the rest of the week is forecast to be hot and dry, with low humidity, said Coal Seam Fire Public Information Officer Jim Dale.

Dale said his report didn’t include any specific wind information, but noted, “Wind events can pop up and surprise us.”

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