Cost of fighting fire near De Beque at $1.6 million

Smoke from the Pine Ridge Fire near De Beque creeps into the Grand Valley on Sunday in this northeast view toward the DoubleTree Hotel on Horizon Drive.

Two helicopters work along the north perimeter of the Pine Ridge Fire on Sunday near De Beque.

Update 10:15 a.m.
Bill Hahnenberg, incident commander, advises full containment of the Pine Ridge Fire is expected to be contained by Thursday. Firefighting resources should start trickling out of De Beque in the coming days.

The Pine Ridge Fire burning south of De Beque west of Interstate 70 reached 35 percent containment Sunday evening.

The lightning-sparked blaze began Wednesday afternoon and spread to 13,360 acres by 7 p.m. Sunday. Battling the fire has cost $1.6 million so far.

Up to 27 mph winds, temperatures in the 90s, and 5 to 10 percent humidity created “extreme” firefighting conditions Sunday for six helicopters, 38 engines and 422 personnel, according to Bill Hahnenberg, incident commander for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team. The team is managing the firefighting effort.

Hahnenberg said at a news conference Sunday morning in De Beque that he expects less wind and cooler temperatures today.

“We’re making good progress,” he said, particularly in the northeast and eastern ends of the fire.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said residents and tourists should not allow progress on the fire or Saturday’s dismissal of mandatory evacuation orders to give them a false sense of security.

He said residents near the east end of the fire should remain prepared to evacuate if the fire worsens in that area.

“We want people to understand the weather and dry circumstances can change in a minute so they need to be ready to go,” Hilkey said.

Hilkey said the county remains under a Type II fire ban that disallows all use of fireworks, allows smoking outdoors only from a vehicle or trailer, and prohibits lighting fires in fire pits, chimineas, charcoal grills, tiki torches, outdoor candles and oil lanterns, and campfires.

Every fireworks display in the county has been canceled for Independence Day, Hilkey said.

A fireworks display scheduled for July 17 at the Mesa County Fairgrounds is pending based on how conditions look closer to that date.

CLICK HERE to see the Sentinel’s coverage of the Pine Ridge Fire.


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