Man faces charge after burn pile sparks wildfire

A Rio Blanco County resident is expected to be charged with a misdemeanor today after wind whipped a small burn pile into a wildfire that scorched 500 acres, evacuated several homes and caused minor injuries to a firefighter.

Undersheriff Michael Joos said Sunday that the resident was burning trash piles behind Meeker Collision on Colorado Highway 13 on Friday afternoon when the wind picked up and spread the fire to the northeast.

Authorities used a bulldozer and road graders from the Rio Blanco County Road and Bridge Department and a private contractor in the area to cut fire lines, Joos said.

Authorities evacuated four homes and an RV park. One of those homes was completely surrounded by the fire, forcing firefighters and deputies to abandon it, he said.

Two Meeker firefighters remained to shut off a 500-gallon propane tank but were caught in heavy smoke.

One of them, Melissa Kindall, suffered smoke inhalation. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was treated and released, Joos said.

Joos said the owners of the house surrounded by fire had cleared a 150-foot perimeter around it. He said when firefighters returned later, everything around the house had burned. The house, though, was untouched.

“It was unbelievable,” he said.

It took 11 agencies and private companies 4 1/2 hours to contain the fire, Joos said. The person who set fire to the burn piles, whom Joos declined to identify, will be issued a summons.


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