Brush fire breaks out in Wolcott |

Brush fire breaks out in Wolcott

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

WOLCOTT, Colorado – A small brush fire in Wolcott Thursday afternoon closed a portion of Highway 6 as firefighters put out the blaze that burned between the road and the Eagle River. Investigators believe the fire was caused by discarded cigarette, an Eagle County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said.

Low humidity and dry fuels caused the National Weather Service to issue a “red flag warning” Thursday for an area that includes Eagle, Garfield, Pitkin and Mesa Counties.

Gusty, southwest winds, dry ground fuels and very low humidity created the perfect storm for brush fires Thursday, according to the warning.

The Eagle River Fire Protection District was the first unit on scene Thursday in Wolcott. The district sent three fire engines to the scene as well as a water tender and other vehicles.

“There were pretty good flame lengths when I first got here,” said Justin Ayer, of Eagle River Fire, adding that you could see flame marks on the street signs near the scene.

The red flag warning means that “critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures will create explosive fire growth potential,” according to the National Weather Service.

When the calls first came in, Vail Fire Chief Mark Miller said he was monitoring the situation closely, anticipating that his crews might need to help should the fire spread.

“It’s fairly small at this point,” Miller said just after 1:30 p.m. “But it’s sort of moving toward the river. If it jumps the river, then we’re in trouble.”

The crews on scene, however, including Eagle River Fire and the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, put the fire out in just over an hour, said Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jessie Mosher.

“The total incident was about an hour and 13 minutes,” Mosher said. “We were very lucky this got called in when it did.”

A passing driver called the fire in, she said. The fire turned out to be about a 1/4 acre in size, but winds in the area were about 15 to 20 miles per hour at the time, with gusts higher than that at times, raising the potential it could grow.

Mosher said the incident is a reminder of how this season’s fire conditions are shaping up. She said the Sheriff’s Office will use this incident as a prompter to remind people about the dangers of tossing out lit cigarettes.

Last week, Sheriff Joe Hoy announced restrictions on open burning in Eagle County.

“Eagle County has seen little moisture and fire conditions continue to worsen,” the Sheriff’s Office announcement read. “In addition, red flag fire and high wind warnings and watches have continued to be issued. The National Weather Service has declared March 2012 as the driest month on record. These weather conditions, along with a series of large human-caused fires throughout Colorado prompted Sheriff Joe Hoy to proactively issue these fire restrictions.”

Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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