Year in review: Three summer wildfires burn around Rifle |

Year in review: Three summer wildfires burn around Rifle

Three summer wildfires within several weeks sent thick, dark smoke into the skies around Rifle and lead to homes being evacuated and the closures of a state highway and the Rifle Gap and Rifle Falls State Park until firefighters controlled the blazes.
Citizen Telegram File Photo |

An annual summer occurrence in Colorado for the last few decades – wildfires that burn or threaten homes – hit close to home for Rifle-area residents this summer.

Three wildfires – the Brush Creek Fire north of Rifle burned more than 400 acres, the Ward Gulch Fire northeast of Rifle near Rifle Falls State Park burned about 500 acres and the Beaver Creek Fire southwest of Rifle burned 15 acres ­- kept people’s attention and anxiety high as heavy smoke was a common sight for several weeks in June.

Another wildfire southeast of Glenwood Springs in August, the Red Canyon Fire, burned 390 acres and was also closely watched by area residents.

Lightning strikes caused all three fires, along with many other smaller blazes in more remote areas of the county, left dry by the ongoing drought.

All three fires were fought by members of the Juniper Valley fire crew from the Rifle Correctional Center, along with hundreds of other firefighters from across the state and elsewhere.

About 25 people were evacuated for the Ward Gulch Fire, and Colorado Highway 325 that leads to Rifle Falls and Rifle Gap state parks was closed for several days. The Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery was also evacuated for a time as flames spread in its direction.

More than 30 natural gas wells south of Rifle and Silt were shut down while the Beaver Creek Fire burned as a precaution.

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