Crater Fire one of two |

Crater Fire one of two

Cliff Thompson

The Crater Fire near Dotsero was one of two wildfires Friday afternoon in western Eagle County and eastern Garfield County that are expected to continue burning today.

With no lightning or rain for more than a month, officials suspect the two fires are human-caused, and fire danger now is at the same level it was at the height of last summer’s drought.

“You could see a huge mushroom cloud of smoke,” said Bret Hartman, photographer for the Vail Daily, who viewed the fire from the Coffee Pot Road late in the afternoon. “It’s still going.”

The Crater Fire started just north of the Dotsero mobile home park, at about 2 p.m and spread north and east toward Dry Lake through pinon and juniper and some heavier timber. No structures are threatened, but a telecommunications tower for cell phones and other equipment was slightly damaged by the fire which as night falls, was spreading more slowly.

“It has hit sparser fuels,” said Phil Bowden, Interagency Fire Officer.

As many as 50 firefighters were on-scene, including two 20-member fire crews, as well as local firefighters and wildland engine crews to cut firelines. A helicopter has dropped water on hot spots and one plane from Grand Junction dropped fire retardant.

Gusty winds of up to 35 mph drove the fire, but those was expected to calm as night approached. Relative humidity, however, was expected remain low, allowing the fire to remain active through the night, officials said.

As evening approached, Bowden said the Crater Fire was at zero percent contained, but its spread had slowed.

A second – and potentially more troubling fire – is the 10-acre Crane Park Fire in the Flat Tops, just west of the Deep Creek Canyon overlook on the Coffee Pot Road in eastern Garfield County, just west of the Eagle County line.

“The size-up report said the spread potential of that fire is high,” Bowden said.

Multiple aircraft dropped retardant on that fire, too.

It’s burning in brush, grass and denser timber that is surrounded by meadows, Bowden said. While it is not yet known how the fire started, it is suspected to be human-caused because there has been no lightning.

Sixteen smoke jumpers from Grand Junction dropped into the fire, which was reported about 4 p.m.

Wind in the area was gusty and there was some torching of large trees, said Kathy Kahlow, Eagle District Ranger, from the fire scene.

The last measurable rain in the county was June 1 and fire danger in the area is extreme.

“Fire conditions are consistent with what we saw last summer,” said Bowden. “We even have a little more fuel because of all the spring moisture.”

Last summer more than 350,000 acres burned in Colorado when a combination of drought, lightning and human activity caused the state’s worst recorded fire season.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or

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