Wildfire north of Rifle grows to more than 300 acres

A Wednesday afternoon wildfire fed by high winds from a weather front had grown to an estimated 300-plus acres before 6 p.m. and closed state Highway 13 north of Rifle for a few hours.

The fire broke out near the highway around mile marker 15. Its cause remained under investigation.

Mike Morgan, chief of the recently formed Colorado River Fire Rescue, an authority created by the Rifle and Burning Mountains (Silt/New Castle) fire districts, said the fire struck about 1 p.m. That’s just after a red flag fire warning took effect due to forecasted windy, warm and dry conditions preceding the arrival of an expected cold front.

“The timing was not good,” Morgan said.

At least one house is in the area, along with some communications towers. No evacuations had occurred as of late afternoon.

About 90 percent of the fire acreage is Bureau of Land Management land.

Rifle had about three water tenders and several brush trucks on the scene, along with additional resources. Crews from the Meeker and Grand Valley (Parachute/Battlement Mesa) fire departments also were assisting, and federal interagency personnel and inmate firefighters from the Rifle Correctional Center also had been requested, along with the Unaweep Wildland Fire Use Module crew out of Grand Junction.

About 70 personnel were on the scene or en route, said Brit McLin, a division chief for the new authority.

“BLM has called helicopters from as far away as the Dakotas,” McLin said. “They’ve got a heavy air tanker on scene and one coming from the Front Range.”

Morgan said the highway had closed due to safety concerns related to smoke and the amount of firefighting resources on the road. Smoke was being reported as far away as Eagle County.
McLin said at one point sustained winds of 25 mph were reported at the scene, with gusts up to 40 mph.



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