Wildfire near Rulison 85 percent contained | PostIndependent.com

Wildfire near Rulison 85 percent contained

Samantha Pal
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
AP Photo/E Pablo KosmickiAn Orion slurry bomber lays down a line of protection for a home threatened by a wildfire between Rifle and Rulison Friday evening.

RULISON ” The 301 Fire near Rulison was listed at 85 percent contained Saturday evening, significant progress despite a red flag warning from the National Weather Service for hot, windy and dry conditions in the area.

Kevin Whelan of the Rifle Fire Protection District said Saturday that they were working on securing the fire line before the winds picked up later in the afternoon, and that the estimate of the fire’s size had been downgraded from 238 acres to 180 acres.

Sixty-six firefighters and personnel were working on the scene Saturday, from Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, Rifle, Grand Valley, Burning Mountain and Carbondale Rural Fire Protection Districts, the Bureau of Land Management/Forest Service Interagency, the American Red Cross, Colorado State Forest and the Gila Hot Shot Crew from New Mexico.

Whelan said Saturday evening that crews had been reduced to about 60 firefighters and a significant amount of equipment was withdrawn to other areas. Evacuated residents had been allowed to return to their homes.

The incident commanders are pleased with the progress made against the fire, Whelan said.

Air support was used extensively Friday to contain the blaze and was on standby Saturday.

The fire is believed to have been started by lightning ” there were 700 lightning strikes between Grand Junction and Eagle around the time the fire started, Whelan said.

Contrary to earlier reports a house was not lost in the fire, but an outbuilding was.

The fire is burning close to the site of the 65-acre Gray Barn Fire that started June 26 and the Red Apple Fire that burned 800 acres in 2006.

Gas and oil drilling in the area was initially a concern and could have presented more of a danger, as the fire bumped up against an oil drill, but fire crews were no longer worried, Whelan said. Oil rigs had been shut down and oil and gas companies were cooperating, said Whelan.

Firefighters were well-rested and well-hydrated as they started battling the flames again on Saturday, said Mike Morgan, Fire Chief of Rifle Fire Protection District.

“With these high winds, conditions are ripe for huge catastrophic fires,” Morgan said.

Morgan said the fire did not burn cleanly through the area, instead leaving a lot of fuel in the form of unburned trees and shrubs.

“They’ve got their hands full out there,” Morgan said.

The firefighters were out doing hard, dirty work with 20 pounds of gear to carry, while most people wanted to be at the pool in their swimsuits, Morgan said.

The sides of County Road 301 were spotted black and gray, with small clouds of smoke drifting up from blackened shrubs. Burned Juniper trees made the smell of smoke more pungent. Many trees were still green on top, evidence that the fire staying fairly near to the ground.

Friday night the fire had jumped from one side of the road to the other, leaving firefighters fighting on both sides to stop the spread, Whelan said.

Layers of pine needles that gather on the ground could be a few feet thick, and were being checked by firefighters for hot spots.

One firefighter could be seen taking off his glove and feeling the soil around a tree trunk with his bare hands, checking for heat.

Rifle resident and Squad boss Ayasha Eddins from the BLM Forest crew took a break from checking the ground for hot spots, her teeth shining brightly behind a dusty smile. She said it was important for them to drink lots of water, and that these conditions were a lot hotter than most seasons.

“I really like giving back to my community,” Eddins said. “My uncle’s house is up here, so I like helping out family and friends.”

Jeremy Heiman contributed to this story.

Contact Samantha Pal: 384-9105,


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