Officials determine who started Redlands blaze

Man clearing brush sparked fire that raced through Preserve Lane area

A man who was burning brush Wednesday morning around the home at 586 Preserve Lane was responsible for touching off a 40-acre wildfire on the Redlands, according to the Grand Junction Fire Department.

No homes burned in the heavily vegetated area dotted with high-dollar homes, thanks to quick work by firefighters from around the valley and neighbors with garden hoses.

Grand Junction Fire Department spokesman Mike Page said he could not release the man’s name because of patient-privacy laws. The man was taken to a hospital to be treated for an unrelated medical emergency, Page said.

According to the Mesa County Assessor’s Office, the home at 586 Preserve Lane is owned by Harold and Mary Barnett. The Daily Sentinel was unable to contact the Barnetts on Thursday to find out what they know about Wednesday’s fire. Their home phone number is unpublished, and a sign at the entrance to the road leading to their home says: “The Preserve — PRIVATE ROAD — Homeowners and Guests Only. Thank You.”

One firefighter sustained minor burns to his face, and some gauges and plastic coverings on the outside of one fire engine melted when the blaze ripped across Colorado Highway 340.

Page estimated the engine’s damage at $2,000 to $3,000.

As with all fires caused when a controlled burn goes out of control, the Fire Department and city officials convene to determine whether they will issue a bill to the person responsible for starting the blaze. Those talks won’t occur until next week.

“We usually look at the mindset of the person,” Page said. “If it truly was a legitimate process, and they were attempting to do the right thing but got out of control, that’s different than someone doing something crazy. I don’t know where this will go.”

Page said homeowners were lucky Wednesday that there was no wind, which most likely would have spread the fast-moving blaze to homes.

Nearby homeowner Anna Rickenbach said she was thankful for all the hard work by firefighters and residents. 

“We feel very blessed that we still have our home and most importantly that our families and pets are OK,” she said. “We thank everyone there who pitched in and saved our neighborhood.”

Rickenbach said neighbors will meet soon to decide how they can thank firefighters.

Residents in the area already were looking at ways to reduce some of the dry brush in the area, a project that probably will be expedited because of the fire.

“There are ways to thin areas out and do those things without even lighting a match and igniting it,” she said.

Part of the allure of the private subdivision is wildlife that gather in the woodsy area with small ponds, she said.

“We need to make it so that it’s not a risk for people who live there,” Rickenbach said.


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