Arson charged in West Slope fire |

Arson charged in West Slope fire

RULISON ” Garfield County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Nicholas Hatcher, 26, on fourth-degree arson after he allegedly discarded a lit cigarette that may have started the Gray Barn Fire Tuesday evening.

Hatcher, 26, allegedly flicked a lit cigarette into a barrel then left it unattended; a short time later Hatcher noticed the brush fire.

After being arrested, it was discovered that Hatcher had four outstanding warrants, including two for driving under the influence. Hatcher’s bond has been set at $9,000.

The fire has burned approximately 65 acres on private land, according to David Boyd, public affairs specialist with the Bureau of Land Management.

Lee Rickard of the Upper Colorado Interagency Fire Management Center, who was assisting, said the area is being mapped and the fire seems to be 100 percent contained but he could not verify that figure.

Rifle firefighters, Grand Valley Fire Protection District, along with Burning Mountains Fire Protection District and the Upper Colorado Interagency Fire Management Center went to work on the fire quickly, and managed to get a head start on containing the blaze, Rickard said.

Grand Valley Fire Protection District was dispatched to the area between county roads 320 and 309 near Rulison, just after 7 p.m. Tuesday, where a wildfire was burning 20 feet from a structure.

Heavy winds and dry fuels on the steep hillsides complicated the initial attack of the fire. Because the fire was moving rapidly, crews started backburns to help slow it Tuesday evening, according to reports.

Several structures and gas wells were threatened but no damage was sustained.

“We hit it hard,” Rickard said. “I would say that was the key.”

Rickard credited the Idaho City Hot Shots Fire crews, who were helping in the final stages of the New Castle fire on Tuesday, for assisting with getting control of the blaze.

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