Lightning sparks seven fires in Eagle County |

Lightning sparks seven fires in Eagle County

Cliff Thompson
Vail in 1961.

In Eagle County, three of the fires are active; the remainder are either contained or out. The sheer volume of strikes and the resulting fires is stretching firefighting resources thin.

“What eats you up is monitoring those strikes,” said White River National Forest information officer Sue Froeschle. “You can’t ignore these lightning strikes. Every time you’re called out you have to send an engine out.”

Unspoken is the fear that too many fires will be ignited simultaneously for existing firefighting resources to combat. Forest conditions are among the driest ever encountered, caused by the worst drought in 125 years.

If that happens – and current weather patterns are likely to provide more lightning – firefighting agencies would have to decide what to let burn and what to try to save.

“We’d have to do a sort of triage based on the threat to life, property or resources,” said Eagle district ranger Cathy Kahlow. “I would say we’re getting pretty stretched. Colorado and the West have a lot of fires right now.”

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Froeschle said many of the local rangers and managers are already assigned to fires elsewhere, and balancing local need with the needs of at other fires requires some juggling. Firefighters, for example, work 14 days before taking a two-day break.

“The system is stressed but still capable of responding,” she said. “It’s early in the fire season, and our bigger concern is as the fire season wears on, people get tired.”

Eagle County isn’t alone. To date in Colorado there have been 1,251 fires that have burned an estimated 337,000 acres.

Seven fires were sparked in Eagle County Wednesday evening. Three fires -the High Trail Fire and the Piney River Fire southeast of State Bridge and the Olson Ditch fire seven miles north of Eagle, on private land – have either been contained or extinguished.

Four fires, meanwhile, remain active, though small:

– The Coffee Pot Road Fire northwest of Gypsum.

– The Derby Mesa Fire three and half miles west of Burns on private land in heavy dead and downed fuels.

– The Winter Ridge Fire a mile and a half northeast of Castle Peak on Bureau of Land Management.

– The W Mountain Fire in the Flat Tops southwest of Dome Peak.

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