RED CLIFF, Colorado - The Eagle River Fire Protection District responded to a wildland fire near Red Cliff Monday that took crews about three hours to attack.
Crews from Greater Eagle Fire and the Vail Fire Department were also on scene at the fire, which was reported by rock climbers in the Kluttergarden bouldering area.
Eagle River Fire released a statement late Monday reporting that the fire was about 1/4 mile from Highway 24, between the highway and the Red Cliff cemetery. Responders used brush trucks, which are specially outfitted pickup trucks used to fight forest fires off dirt roads, and the Grand Junction U.S. Forest Service dispatched Air Attack, a wildland firefighting airplane, to the scene.
Eagle River Fire Chief Karl Bauer said the cause is still under investigation, but investigators have "no indication the fire was suspicious in origin."
Eagle River Fire's Minturn Engine was first on scene. Crews discovered a contained fire covering a 20-foot round area, according to the statement. An abandoned fire ring was found in the center areas of the fire.
Firefighters then noticed a second fire about 300 feet uphill and across the road, according to the statement. A second abandoned fire pit was found near that fire, which quickly gained momentum and quickly covered almost 2 acres.
The fire burned in two areas ridden with beetle-killed lodgepole pine trees, Bauer said, which affected the way the fire burned. A small crown fire burned because of the dead trees, meaning the fire climbed a tree and then jumped from treetop to treetop.
"There were areas where it got very aggressive because of the dead (tree) component, and because of some stiff winds," Bauer said, adding that some dead trees started to blow over while crews were on scene, increasing the danger for firefighters.
The wildland fire, in which flames of up to 40 feet high were reported, is a reminder of the fire danger that still exists throughout the region. With summer behind us and snow in the forecast later this week, Bauer said it's important to remember that serious fire danger is still there.
"We're still concerned," he said. "Fire season in Colorado tends to come in two stages. Earlier season where fuels come out of dormancy, and late season, where things are going back into dormancy. Fuels are very dry and they will carry fire."
Eagle River Fire Battalion Chief Michael Warmuth, the incident commander for Monday's fire, commended the actions of the two climbers who reported the fire so quickly.
"We need to take every precaution to prevent a wildfire," Warmuth said. "Ensure that your campfire is completely out before leaving."
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.