Stretched thin |

Stretched thin

Cliff Thompson

“Our luck ran out on initial attack on this one,” said interagency fire officer Phil Bowden.

The fire was in a remote area at the base of Piney Ridge near Lava Lake about three miles from the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness and 14 miles northwest of Vail. It’s also within an area where naturally ignited fires will be allowed to burn under a U.S. Forest Service policy. It’s call Wildland Fire for Beneficial Use. Such fires will be monitored to ensure they don’t endanger private property.

“We’re developing a plan to keep it off private land and to minimize costs,’ Bowden said. “It’s that old resource thing. There’s a lot of fire activity and no resources to fight this one.”

Hindering firefighting efforts locally and across the country is the ordered grounding of the firefighting air tanker fleet that has been successful in slowing or snuffing small fires after a crash of a bomber Thursday at a fire near Estes Park.

The crash Thursday killed two crewman. Bowden says local firefighting efforts have relied heavily on tankers. Local fires already this season have required 17 retardant drops.

Firefighting efforts locally will be bolstered by the expected arrival Saturday of a massive skycrane helicopter with a 2,500-gallon water reservoir. It will be based at the Eagle County Regional Airport for the next two weeks, Bowden said. It is being pulled off the Spring Creek Fire north of Newcastle, that is nearly contained.

“That should give us some punch,” he said.

Wednesday night thunderstorms sparked half a dozen wildfires across the county, which crews were able to quickly contain.

As of Friday afternoon, all of Wednesday’s lightning-started fires were either contained or extinguished.

The fires were sparked when a thunderstorm moved across the Colorado River and Eagle area.

The multiple fires stretched firefighting resources, creating concern that additional fires would result in a choice of which fires would be allowed to burn and which would be fought.

Most were quickly extinguished, said interagency fire officer Phil Bowden. The largest, on Winter Ridge near Castle Peak north of Eagle, in heavy fuels, was three-quarters of an acre in size. It was contained by 11 smokejumpers, with the help of two slurry bombers. The remaining fires were less than a half-acre in size.

One reported fire from Wednesday night, the W Mountain Fire northwest of Burns, proved to be a false alarm, Bowden said.

Another lightning fire north of Edwards ignited Thursday night near Beard Creek that consisted of two burning trees was quickly snuffed, Bowden said.

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