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May 5, 2014
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Vail Valley sees scattered fires during the weekend

EAGLE COUNTY — Several fires up and down the county kept fire crews busy throughout the weekend.

According to the Eagle River Fire Protection District a brush fire started next to one of the Miller Ranch condo complexes in Edwards on Sunday afternoon. Several residents saw the smoke and flames and rushed to control the fire before the fire department arrived on scene.

“Due to the action of the residents in the area, they were able to stop the fire from progressing too far. There were high winds that day, so if they had not done what they did, we would have had a large structure fire,” said Gail McFarland, of the fire district. “From what I understand, they had a bit of a bucket brigade going and were using hoses (and) doing what they could.”

The fire damaged the base of the building’s exterior, as well as four nearby gas meters. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Earlier during the weekend, on Saturday, another fire was reported in Minturn. Crews responded to an electrical fire at a residence and quickly got the fire under control.

“Damage was confined to the floor of the bathroom. Everyone was OK, and all the pets in the house were accounted for,” said McFarland.

Uncontrolled burns

Over the weekend, the Gypsum and Greater Eagle fire protection districts battled several controlled burns that got out of control. In both situations, the fire department was not notified that a burn was going on and the people who started the fires did not have a burn permit.

On Saturday evening, crews responded to a controlled burn that had spread to a tenth of an acre on Gypsum Creek Road. Gypsum Fire Chief Justin Kirkland said firefighters were concerned because the flames spread to some nearby trees, but that after a few hours, the fire was under control.

While firefighters were at Gypsum Creek Road, another fire was reported in Dotsero on Cotton Lane. Despite winds that threatened to push the flames further, the fire was also quickly brought under control.

There were no injuries or structure damage in either of the burns.

Kirkland said that spring is the time of year that conditions start to get drier and when people start to burn piles or fields. It’s not illegal or even necessarily dangerous — as long as you do it right.

“The proper procedure is to contact fire department or community development of Eagle County, and they can give you a burn permit,” said Kirkland. “There’s no charge, but it helps with awareness so that we don’t send someone out to a burn just because someone calls it in.”

Along with the permits come guidelines on how to properly do a controlled burn (and actually control it), as well as factors you should watch out for, such as wind or changes in weather.

Fire season

While southeastern Colorado is already on fire weather watch, the high Rockies are still not in fire season. Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no danger of fire, said Tom Wagenlander of the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District.

“It’s that time of year,” he said. “You end up having more agricultural burns and more ignitions out there. There’s always the chance of them getting away with high winds and weather changes.”

Even though Eagle County had plenty of snow this winter, pine beetle kill trees still put the area at risk for summer wildfires, said Jodi Pratt, wildfire mitigation coordinator for the Eagle River district. Residents can find out more about how to protect their homes and families against wildfires at a number of upcoming Ready Set Go preparation events. One will be held in Eagle at the Brush Creek Pavilion on June 9 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The second will be held at Fire Station 3 in Vail on June 18 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

A Spanish language meeting is also in the works, with a yet-to-be-announced date.

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at mwong@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated May 5, 2014 10:59PM Published May 6, 2014 07:22PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.