Wildfire burns 40 acres near landfill
At roughly 12:19 p.m., the Greater Eagle River Fire Protection District received a call reporting a fire in the hills above the Eagle County Landfill. Responding to the fire were members of the U.S. Forest Service, Eagle River Fire Protection District, Greater Eagle River Fire Protection District, Upper Colorado Fire Management, the Bureau of Land Management and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. Many personnel had just been pulled off a fire in Mountain Star that started early Saturday morning.
Although the Wolcott incident began as a spot fire, by the time firefighters arrived on the scene winds had blown the flames over a 40 acre area. According to Assistant Fire Manager Eric Rebitzke, these same winds present a significant danger to ground crews.
“This is basically an air show due to safety concerns,” he said.
“Winds make the fire really unsteady,” agreed Kathy Warren, spokeswoman for the Eagle River Fire Protection District. “They can turn a fire completely around and pose a big threat. Those fighting wildfires need to know fire and weather behavior. There are all sorts of tactics you can use if you can’t send in a hand crew.”
A scout plane and two heavy tanker planes, known as “slurry bombers,” arrived at the scene to fight the fire from above, dropping loads of retardant on the flames. The planes worked to keep the northerly blowing winds from moving the fire too close to the landfill, which according to Rebitzke contained “caches of wood, piles of tires and basically tons of fuel.”
While the cause of the fire remained uncertain, Rebitzke did say that it was almost certainly exacerbated by “high winds, low relative humidity and the extreme fire danger.” A burn restriction, which prohibits any open flame, is currently in effect.
The Wolcott fire was but one of several wildfires in the High Country recently, including the Mountain Star fire the 2000 acre wildfire southwest of Glenwood Springs. Located about 2 miles south of Interstate 70 off South Canyon Road, the brush fire forced the evacuation of residences in the area. At press time, the fire continued to burn and appeared to be moving in an easterly direction.
Citing these incidents, fire officials are quick to point out the extreme fire danger and urge people to heed restrictions and remain diligent.
“We still have people who are unaware,” said Warren. “People flick a cigarette out the window and don’t realize something that size can start a large fire. (If a fire is started by carelessness) law enforcement would be involved and charges would be filed. It would be very serious for that person.”