Multiple agencies control Rifle Falls Hatchery Fire
Quick response from CRFR, Interagency Fire, and Grand Valley Fire help prevent another large fire in Garfield County
Fine flakes of ash filled the air near Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery on Monday afternoon as more than a dozen wildland firefighters dug through the scorched earth north of Rifle.
After receiving a call just before 8 p.m., crews responded to a rapidly moving brush fire between the hatchery and a riparian zone Sunday evening. Leif Sackett, CRFR transitioning fire chief and incident commander, said the glow from the blaze could be seen several miles away from Highway 325.
Once on scene, crews were able to get waterline around the fire before it spread into the nearby hillsides.
“We were lucky that this fire started in the evening versus now. We arrived in the daylight, and we were able to get lines down in the daylight. It was some pretty gnarly fire behavior in heavy timber,” Fire Chief Randy Callahan said. “Operating in the dark certainly decreased fire behavior, but increased risk to personnel.”
With multiple partnering agencies on scene crews were able to knock down the fire between 1 and 2 a.m. Monday morning.
“We’re calling this fire currently 90% contained, we had crews on it again Tuesday. They did find a few smokers and a few hot spots all within the containment line,” Sackett said Wednesday morning. “We will have crews up there again today, searching for any more hot spots.”
Sackett added that the cause of the fire is still under investigation, but they believe it to be human caused.
Multiple agencies responded to the fire including Grand Valley Fire, Interagency Fire, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, Rifle Police Department, and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Sackett said they had 20-25 personnel on the fire between all of the fire and law enforcement agencies.
The sheriff’s office sent out an evacuation notice for residents in the immediate area along with those camping at nearby Rifle Mountain State Park and Rifle Falls State Park. Residents sheltered at Rifle High School, and any animals were evacuated to the Garfield County Fairgrounds.
Sackett said for the most part the conditions were in their favor Sunday, which helped keep the fire from taking off.
“At about 11 o’clock we had a wind shift and we got a spot about 100 feet past the line, and it torched a tree sending an ember wash across Rifle Creek,” Sackett said. “All the crews are working on getting the edge secured more, but right now today it hasn’t grown any more than did last night.”
CRFR, U.S. Forest Service, and the BLM remained on the scene Monday afternoon mopping up the scene making sure the fire remained contained and did not spread.
“We are concerned about the heat and the humidity dropping, but right now there is no red flag warning,” Sackett said. “We’ll be here today, and we’ll continue to monitor this, keep crews on this as needed to make sure we have it fully contained.”
As of Tuesday the only remaining evacuations include the Rifle Creek Fish Hatchery, which remains closed, and the accompanying Fish Hatchery Trail System.
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