Spring Creek Fire tops 1,000 acres | PostIndependent.com
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Spring Creek Fire tops 1,000 acres

Greg Masse

NEW CASTLE – Steady winds into Thursday, rough terrain and continued dry weather allowed the Spring Creek Fire to eclipse the 1,000-acre mark by Thursday afternoon.

No evacuations had been ordered, nor were they imminently expected, but preparations were ongoing just in case they become necessary.

“We have established trigger points,” said incident commander Joe Hartman, explaining that if the fire hits these trigger points, mandatory evacuations would ensue. The points are set up in some areas between the current fireline and areas where there are structures. The points are designed to give residents two hours to pack up what they can and leave.

“We know that at that time we would have enough time to do evacuations,” Hartman said. “Hopefully we will not need it.”

Hartman and his Type II firefighting team took command of the fire at 6 p.m. Wednesday. In his first day on the job, Hartman reported that since the fire started June 22 from a strike of lighting, it had overcome all control efforts. Those efforts consisted of slurry drops, helicopter water drops and an attempt at building a fireline.

The fire had burned 1,158 acres and was still 0 percent contained Thursday. Hartman said he doesn’t expect the percentage of containment to change until it burns to a more accessible location.

“This fire is probably going to get bigger before we can get control,” fire information officer Ron Gosnell echoed. “It needs to burn to a place where it can be fought. That’s not a real good picture, but I’m telling you the way it is.”

It had advanced southward to within one mile of the National Forest boundary. After that boundary, there is a mix of private and Bureau of Land Management land.

On the north side, the fire burned across Spring Creek, and winds picked up hot embers and created a spot fire on the west side of Clinetop Road. That and other spot fires were growing, with one growing to 50 acres by Thursday afternoon.

On the positive side, winds Thursday were coming from the southwest, pushing the fire away from any neighborhood.

The area most threatened from the fire was East Elk Creek Road. A camp, Christian Camp, was voluntarily evacuated. Others who live in the area were getting ready for possible evacuations by moving animals and livestock and clearing brush and trees from the perimeter around their homes.

Fire crews went from house to house explaining the situation to residents.

“Everyone’s on standby,” said Norm Brown, crew chief for the team assigned to protect structures on East Elk Road. “Almost everyone has moved their livestock. What a lot of people are doing now is the mitigation.”

The crew told homeowners that clearing a 20-foot perimeter around their homes is a good way to create a defensible space.

“It’s real common sense stuff,” he added.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 23 slurry drops, numerous helicopter water drops and more firefighters arriving all the time.

“We have additional resources here that we didn’t have yesterday,” Harman said.

Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri told those at the public information meeting that Reverse 911 had been set up in New Castle and could be used if any evacuations become necessary.

“If there were a concern where we needed to notify people quickly, the Reverse 911 system would dial the area and give residents warning,” he said.

He also said that the system would not work for those who have a telephone solicitor block on their phone and that they should remove that block or the system would not reach them.

In New Castle, despite the thickening vail of smoke that slowly sank into the valley during the afternoon, residents seemed unfazed.

“So far, nobody’s too concerned,” said Kim Colbert, a bartender at the Elk Creek Mining Company. “It seemed a lot smokier yesterday.”

For more information on the fire, go to http://wildfires. nwcg.gov or call 984-0431.

Hartman asked, however, that people only call the phone number if absolutely necessary.

“First go to the radio and newspaper. If you have something extra to figure out, then utilize the phone number,” he said.


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