Multiple brush fires through Colorado River Valley keep firefighters busy Wednesday
Call volumes continue to rise as dry conditions persist for local fire agency
Multiple brush fires, which ignited at nearly the same time, sent fire crews scrambling to provide resources Wednesday afternoon in Garfield County.
Colorado River Fire Rescue Chief Randy Callahan said they received the two calls at the same time, one at mile marker 105 in New Castle and another at mile marker 98 in Silt.
“A division chief detoured to the Silt fire and we had one type 6 engine detour to the Silt as well,” Callahan said. “They quickly ran out of water in an escalating fire in a heavy fuel load, and we had to wait for additional sources.”
The fire started on the east side of Silt, between I-70 and the business park, and quickly spread into the heavy fuels along the railroad tracks.
More resources were called in and two more CRFR types 6 engines responded for a total of three on scene. CRFR also put out an all-call page also known as a call back for all available off-duty personnel to respond to stations.
“We had division chief bring a tender from Rifle, which was delayed due to all the calls at the time,” Callahan said.
Grand Valley Fire Protection responded with a structure engine to protect the nearby businesses, while CDOT responded with a water tender as well. Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, Silt Police Department assisted on scene and shut down I-70.
Callahan said a team from Upper Colorado River Interagency responded, and an engine crew from the U.S. Forest Service out of Illinois with a hand crew happened to drive by the scene and stopped.
“We certainly had to piecemeal it together, because we have had significant issues with this fire with a heavy fuel load, rate of travel of the fire, flame length which made us consider damage to the electrical transmission lines, the railroad that was going through the fire and structural protection on the other side of the fire,” Callahan said.
At the same time CRFR had a crew at the 105 in New Castle with very similar issues, with a fire that was near a neighborhood.
“Glenwood Springs pitched in to help the CRFR crew that was one the scene of that fire,” Callahan said. “Our concern at that fire was wind direction and ember cast getting into that neighborhood.”
On scene for three hours, crews were able to mitigate both fires, continuing them and keeping them from spreading to nearby structures. Callahan said that both fires are still under investigation.
CRFR crews also responded at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday evening to County Road 311 for a lightning strike that sparked a tree fire. Crews were able to keep the fire contained to a single tree.
Zach Pigati, division chief of operations/wildland, said CRFR has had a very busy July so far with a total of 140 calls.
He said battalion chiefs have requested a call-back five times.
“This is when we need more help on an incident and ask members to come in and help on their days off,” he explained.
Of the 140, more than 70 of the calls coincided with another call happening at the same time, with 49 of those calls being two incidents at the same time.
Pigati said they even had one instance with crews responding to six calls at the same time.
“The last two weeks have been non-stop, our system is set up to handle one significant incident at a time, and we are getting multiple calls at the same time,” Callahan said. “Our system is stressed.”
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A restriction on outdoor water use for Glenwood Springs city water customers is in place Saturday night until 8 a.m. Monday following heavy weekend rains over both the Grizzly Creek and Lake Christine burn scars.