Wildland fire touched off near Wolcott gun range, blaze engulfed 150 acres in a few hours in windy, dry conditions | VailDaily.com

Wildland fire touched off near Wolcott gun range, blaze engulfed 150 acres in a few hours in windy, dry conditions

WOLCOTT — A wildland fire touched off near an unofficial shooting range grew to more than 400 acres in a couple hours, local officials said.

The Bocco fire, burning three miles north of Wolcott, started at about 10 acres around 4 p.m. Saturday, June 9, but grew as the dry and windy conditions blew it up to more than 400 acres by 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

Exactly how the fire started is not yet known, but officials say it started near a gun range north of Wolcott, Jessie Mosher, public information with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office said.

Multiple agencies and multiple aircraft scrambled to help knock down the fire, which is burning on both Bureau of Land Management and private land.

As a safety measure, Highway 131 headed north out of Wolcott was closed, as were other roads in the area, Mosher said. Homes in the remote area were evacuated.

The Edwards Interfaith Chapel is open for evacuees, and the Eagle County Fair Grounds is available for large animals that need to be evacuated.

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How witnesses say it started

A Sage Outdoor Adventures wrangler was on her way back from a water run when she rode past the shooting range and the fire, which had just started.

A couple cars sped past her on their way out of the area, said Daryl Bangert with Sage Outdoor Adventures.

She grabbed a phone from one of the other shooters — who, remarkably, was still shooting as the fire was growing – and called 911.

Witnesses say someone put something out there to shoot, they shot it, and the fire started.

"It's the driest I've ever seen it. I've seen plants dead that I've never seen before," said Bangert, who has been guiding in the Vail Valley since the 1970s.

Bangert got the call in the company's Eagle-Vail office. Everyone and everything at Sage is safe, he said.

Red Flag warning

The National Weather Service has issued a "red flag" fire weather warning for Sunday, June 10. That means it's a really, really good day to not burn anything. A combination of low humidity, stout winds and warm temperatures mean that any fire that sparks could get out of control quickly.

The most recent warning is one of several one-day warnings issued so far in this dry, warm, windy spring season. Despite those warnings, fire officials in Eagle County have yet to impose fire restrictions. That means campfires are allowed, and agricultural burning permits will be issued — although those permits aren't valid on red flag days.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.