Panorama Fire claims three homes
A fire that might have been started by a construction worker wielding a torch to cut a metal rebar Wednesday afternoon grew from a spark to upwards of 1,500 acres in less than five hours.
By 6 p.m. the Panorama Fire, so called because it started at Panorama Estates on Missouri Heights, had burned three houses and threatened others.
Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri said he heard unconfirmed reports that a welder’s spark touched off the blaze. He said if that is how the fire started, any criminal charges would be filed out of his office. If a torch was indeed the cause, Dalessandri said it would be a violation of the county fire ban.
Panorama Estates is a subdivision located off Garfield County Road 100, just south of the Cattle Creek drainage.
About 300 people were evacuated to the new Eagle County Community Center, located across Highway 82 from Wendy’s in El Jebel, Garfield County public information officer Ron VanMeter said. If overnight shelter became necessary, VanMeter said it would be set up by the Red Cross at Basalt High School.
The three homes that burned were located in the Spring Creek Reservoir area in eastern Eagle County.
Carbondale fire chief Ron Leach was incident commander because his department responded first.
Air support for the firefighters consisted of three airplane slurry bombers, a helicopter and a spotter plane. The planes were diverted to Carbondale while they were headed to another area and started dropping slurry around 3 p.m.
The fire burned in an east-northeasterly direction.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered for Panorama Estates, Spring Park Reservoir area, Park Meadows Estate subdivision, Aspen Mountain View subdivision and Aspen Mesa subdivision.
A map on the wall of the Carbondale Fire Station, used as the incident command center, showed the fire was located about six miles northeast of Carbondale. Smoke was clearly visible from town.
Although the fire started in Garfield County, it burned into Eagle County by late afternoon.
The size of the lost homes and cost were not known by the 6 p.m. press conference held beside the Carbondale Fire Station.
Fire officials said the fire had begun to die down by late afternoon and it wasn’t expected to grow much overnight, but Dalessandri did warn that a front expected to move in today could whip the flames back up.
The terrain was described as flat, but containing copious amounts of tinder-dry fuel.
Most of the fire was burning on private land on Wednesday, but both Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land was threatened, Dalessandri said.
Evacuations were done door-to-door, but authorities are setting up a reverse 911 system for any coming evacuations.
One firefighter was reported as suffering from smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion, but aside from that no injuries were reported.
Mutual aid was provided by the Eagle County sheriff’s department, the state Forest Service and the American Red Cross.
To get updated information on the fire, log on to www. firewise.com. Also, both Eagle and Garfield county officials will post information on their websites: http://www.eaglecounty. com and http://www.garfield-county.com.
Phone numbers for the Red Cross at the Eagle County Community Center are 704-2786, 704-2886, 704-2787 and 704-2887.
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