Blaze erupts near De Beque
A fast-moving wildfire near De Beque sent authorities scrambling to ensure people were out of harm’s way as a host of local, state and federal agencies ordered heightened fire restrictions around the region.
The lightning-sparked Pine Ridge Fire had burned 500 to 700 acres on the north side of the Bookcliffs and southwest of De Beque by Wednesday night and was growing rapidly, the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management office said.
About seven structures were threatened, although no information was available about whether they were dwellings.
Almost 100 firefighters were fighting the blaze, aided by three helicopters and an air tanker flown by a Canadian crew, the Fire Management office said.
Evacuation orders issued Wednesday afternoon had been lifted, officials said. They were trying to figure out the best way to manage the fire, which was burning in rugged, remote terrain.
The fire triggered the closure of V.2 Road west of De Beque. Chris Joyner, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management, said the fire’s behavior was “extreme.”
The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department attempted to contact any residents who might be in the Mustang Ranch subdivision, a collection of dirt plots with no permanent structures. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said there may be camp trailers in the area but that deputies didn’t expect them to be occupied.
The fire sent up a plume of gray and black smoke that was visible in the Grand Valley.
While the blaze joined others raging on the Front Range and a few starting in select spots on the Western Slope, several agencies took action Wednesday to try to limit new starts.
Montrose County, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management ordered or extended their bans to the higher Stage 2 restrictions.
The Forest Service enacted the restrictions for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests, while Colorado State Parks issued restrictions at Crawford, Navajo, Paonia, Ridgway and Sweitzer Lake state parks.
Meanwhile, the BLM upgraded restrictions on lands in Delta, Gunnison, Montrose, Saguache, San Miguel and Ouray counties. It also imposed Stage 1 restrictions in Hinsdale and San Juan counties.
“At the beginning of the month, county, state and federal officials determined a need for stage-one fire restrictions at lower elevations due to the drought,” Barbara Sharrow, BLM Uncompahgre field manager, said in a statement. “As the dry conditions persist, we are expanding fire restrictions throughout the Uncompahgre and Gunnison field offices with exemptions to allow industry operations to continue.”
Carbondale has issued similar restrictions.
Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey issued a fire ban in late May.
The heightened restrictions come on the heels of last week’s Stage 2 fire bans in the White River National Forest and on Colorado National Monument.
The restrictions, more extensive than Stage 1 limits, ban all campfires, charcoal grilling and outdoor coal- and wood-burning stoves.
The restrictions also limit cigarette smoking to inside structures or vehicles, operating a chainsaw without an approved spark arrester and fire extinguisher, operating any torch device such as a welding tool, or using a motorized vehicle off established roads, trails or parking areas.
The use of fireworks, fuses, blasting caps, flares or other incendiary devices is always prohibited on federal lands.