Fire forces evacuations southeast of Glenwood

BILL KETTLER/Special to the Sentinel—The Red Canyon Fire southeast of Glenwood Springs, which was first reported early Monday afternoon, had grown to more than 200 acres by Tuesday. As the fire burned along a ridge and up Lookout Mountain, officials were concerned that it might spread down into the city.

A second run by a wildfire in as many days forced evacuations Tuesday of some residents living near Glenwood Springs.

The Red Canyon Fire, first reported early Monday afternoon, had grown to more than 200 acres by early Tuesday and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office estimated in a news release that it had consumed another 35 or 40 acres during a flare-up Tuesday afternoon.

As a result, evacuation orders were issued east of the fire and north toward Interstate 70. The fire is burning east of Highway 82 and southeast of Glenwood Springs.

In Facebook postings, the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District and the Garfield County Emergency Communications Authority referred to the evacuation order as pertaining to the rural Lookout Mountain area southeast of Glenwood Springs. The order didn’t apply to any homes in the city itself, Carbondale Fire said.

Authorities have established an evacuation center at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale. Large animals can be taken to the Garfield County Fairgrounds in Rifle, with the owners providing for their transportation and feeding.

Colorado Animal Rescue, or CARE, is located in Spring Valley, not far from the fire, and told Carbondale Fire it couldn’t accept small animals, but that they were being taken at the Divide Creek Animal Hospital in Silt and the Rifle Animal Shelter.

Tuesday’s fire activity came after the fire made an unnerving run Monday evening in the direction of Glenwood Springs, which has a history of major blazes.

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.

The sheriff’s office said that on Tuesday the fire was burning in piñon-juniper forest and being fought primarily from the air because of firefighter safety concerns related to the steep, challenging terrain and limited access routes. Three single-engine air tankers and one heavy tanker dropped retardant and water.

About 60 ground crew members worked the fire perimeters and six smokejumpers had arrived, with more ground crews expected Tuesday evening.

At last report there had been no containment of the fire, and the cause hadn’t been determined, but lightning is suspected.


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