Red Canyon fire shows high fire danger persists

August 14, 2013

Colorado, Garfield County, wildfire

Firefighter Michael Cruz of Grand Valley Fire Department swings his pulaski as he helps construct a fire line on the south side of the Red Canyon Fire on Tuesday. [photo credit: Christopher Mullen - Special to the Post Independent]

Firefighter Michael Cruz of Grand Valley Fire Department swings his pulaski as he helps construct a fire line on the south side of the Red Canyon Fire on Tuesday. [photo credit: Christopher Mullen – Special to the Post Independent]

Latest Post Independent update:  Red Canyon Fire at 350 acres, 150 firefighters on the line

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Shortly after noon on Wednesday, officials confirmed that the Red Canyon Fire southeast of Glenwood Springs was holding at approximately 350 acres on federal and private lands, and was being battled by 150 fire fighters from multiple local and federal agencies and departments, according to Bill Kight, public information officer for the multi-agency Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team A (RMIMT) …

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Drought, Forest Overgrowth Contributors to Red Canyon Fire

… “The area is very overgrown with gambrel oak, pinon and juniper trees and sagebrush, it’s a very dangerous area to be in because the forest is so overgrown,” says Ron Leach.

He’s Carbondale’s long-time Fire Chief. His department was one of the first to respond to the fire when it was reported on Monday. He says the area likely caught fire because of a history of fire suppression and the ongoing drought. Still, he’s surprised the fire sparked so easily after recent rains.

“I’ll tell you, that fire burned yesterday (Monday) like there was gasoline on it, the trees looked green and the oak leaves are bright green, but they’re very dry and I was very surprised how fast that fire burned.”

Fire officials say the probable cause of the fire is a lightning strike from a dry lightning storm on Sunday. Even though it grew yesterday, Leach says he’s confident firefighters will gain control of the fire over the next four days, or so.

“I’m really not too worried about this fire, I know we’re going to get a handle on this fire, this is certainly not the worst fire we’ve ever seen in the Roaring Fork Valley,” he says.

Red Canyon fire location and evacuation zone as of 7:30 p.m., August 13

Red Canyon fire location and evacuation zone as of 7:30 p.m., August 13

Fire forces evacuations southeast of Glenwood

… Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson said a wind shift Monday with gusts of probably 30 to 35 mph led to perhaps 50 acres burning “in a very short period of time” and sending up a large smoke plume.

“I don’t want to call it a blow-up, but (it was) pretty close,” he said.

Although the fire mostly traveled along the ridge east of town up Lookout Mountain, Tillotson was concerned by a few “slop” fires threatening to drop into Glenwood Springs.

“We had pretty constant winds pushing toward town and we were starting to see some spotting activity,” he said.

He said emergency agency phones “were pretty much ringing off the hook” with calls from concerned residents as the fire grew.

Glenwood’s history of fires includes the 1994 blaze that killed 14 firefighters on Storm King Mountain just west of town and the 2002 Coal Seam Fire, which destroyed about 30 homes.

Tillotson said Monday’s run by the fire died down when winds subsided and it reached the ridge. Also helping was that it entered an area of lighter fuel, thanks in part because that area had been the site of an old burn …

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Carbondale transitions into fire command central

CARBONDALE — If the Red Canyon Fire has proven anything it’s that it’s “still really dry out there, obviously, the way this one took off,” Carbondale firefighter/paramedic Garrett Kennedy said upon returning from the fire line Tuesday night to the incident command center at the main Carbondale Fire Station.

Kennedy and six other members of the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District were working mop-up in an area that had already burned near the top of Red Canyon Road south of Glenwood Springs when the winds kicked up around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“We were just trying to hold the line, and get it knocked down before the winds came,” he said.

When it did, Kennedy said they lost a lot of their ground resources to go work structure protection.

“It started moving pretty good, and the wind was changing, so we really had to be alert to that,” he said. “We lost some ground, but we had a lot of good people up there and got some work done.”

Kennedy and fellow Carbondale firefighters Ron Kroesen, Logan Piccolo, Tom Morelli, Ken Clark and Adam Bugner were among the 60 or so men and women fighting the fire Tuesday as it spread from about 200 acres earlier in the day to around 250 acres by late afternoon.

Also on the ground Tuesday was the Juniper Valley Hotshot crew out of the Rifle Correctional Center.

“It went pretty well, and we made some progress, no help of the wind,” said crew boss Chris Spitznogle as he marched his crew of 20 from the Carbondale Middle School field, which is serving as tent city for the fire crews, to the nearby firehouse …

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There are no well pads in the Red Canyon fire zone or evacuation zone.

Latest updates

The Red Canyon fire on InciWeb

Approximately 100 people are assigned to the fire. Night patrol for structure protection occuring last night. Additional resources have been ordered which includes 3 additional hand crews, a Type 1 helicopter due in today, 1 heavy air tanker and 2 Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATS). Twenty fire engines have been ordered to relieve local forces so they can return to station for initial attack in their districts.

RMImTeam A Fire Info on Twitter
Rocky Mtn. Incident Management Team A is a Type 2 all-risk Incident Management Team for the Rocky Mountain Area and is now in command of the Red Canyon fire. Incident Commander Shane Del Grosso

Carbondale Fire District on Twitter and Facebook

Garfield County

GarCo 911 on Twitter and Facebook

Colorado Wildfire Info on Twitter and Facebook

Colorado Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook

firefighters are heroes

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