Jumpers, bombers hit fire near Fulford | VailDaily.com

Jumpers, bombers hit fire near Fulford

Cliff Thompson

The fire hit during the worst drought in more than 30 years, and area forests are ripe for big fires.

Firefighting airplanes diverted from other fires burning across the region made six fire retardant bombing runs on the fire and slowed it down. An eight-person smokejumping crew parachuted to the site, about a mile west and north of Fulford, nearly 11 miles south of Eagle. They were joined by 25 other firefighters from the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department.

“Once they poured retardant on it, it seemed to do better,” said Forest Service Eagle District Ranger Kathy Kahlow. “It was smoking heavily and moving well with the wind. We like to act aggressively when we have the resources.”

The unspoken fear is that the fire would gallop across the forest, driven by the wind toward human dwellings.

A fire started by a campfire 50 miles southwest of Denver on Sunday had grown to 87,000 acres by Tuesday night, forcing the evacuation of thousands of Front Range suburbanites. Another fire in Glenwood Springs Saturday, started by an underground fire in a coal seam, grew to 10,000 acres and destroyed 40 structures on the west and north side of town. Nearly 3,000 people were evacuated.

A similar evacuation scenario is possible in Eagle County if a fire roars out of control. County statistics show that nearly 8,500 people live on the south side of Interstate 70 from Brush Creek to Edwards, the areas where prevailing winds would take the fire near Fulford in the worst case.

Radio transmission from firefighters indicated evacuation of Salt and Bruce creeks and Fulford areas were discussed but were not implemented. A voluntary evacuation remains in effect.

For updated information on the fire, access the Eagle County Web site: http://www.eagle-county.com.

The cause of the Porphyry Mountain fire is suspected to be a lightning strike from a storm that passed through the area nine days ago. That holdover strike ignited a log that smoldered until today.

The site of the fire, said Kahlow, is about a mile from the nearest road on a rocky, heavily timbered hillside with lots of downed spruce, fir and lodgepoles littering the forest floor.

Accessing the fire has been difficult because of the heavy, jack-strawed timber.

“Our fittest people took half an hour to get in.” Kahlow said. “Some of the downed logs are chest high.”

She said there will be lots of chain-saw work by crews who will work through the night to build a line around the fire. Today more firefighters are expected to relieve those on the line overnight.

The weather forecast from the National Weather Service through the weekend favors the firefighting efforts. It is calling for continued clear weather with temperatures in the 70s, and winds are forecast to be lighter than in past days. No precipitation is forecast, but some cumulus clouds may form in the afternoons.

A passing front Saturday fanned a holdover lightning strike to fire near the Eagle County Landfill. That fire quickly grew to 40 acres in wind that gusted to 40 miles-per-hour. Slurry bombers made six runs on the fire, and ground crews finished it off Saturday night.

Ironically enough, porphyry means “fire formed” and usually refers to igneous rock.

Kahlow said residents in the area of the fire should stay tuned to radios for additional information on any developments.

“Our first priority is human safety,” Kahlow said.

The fire was first reported shortly before noon Tuesday, and it is the first fire on the Eagle district of the White River National Forest.

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