Wildfire north of Rifle grows to nearly 500 acres

A Wednesday afternoon wildfire fed by high winds from a weather front had grown to nearly 500 acres as of that evening and closed Colorado Highway 13 north of Rifle for a few hours.

The fire broke out 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 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 occurred Wednesday. The highway was open again by about 4 p.m.

Much 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 fire departments also were assisting, and federal interagency personnel and inmate firefighters from the Rifle Correctional Center also had been requested.

About 75 personnel were on the scene and “a whole bunch more” were ordered for today, Morgan said.

One airplane and helicopter were on the scene and two more helicopters and a heavy air tanker were on their way, he said.

He said the fire was confined to east of the highway, and had reached the top of a ridge paralleling the road that’s known as the Grand Hogback. But he said it hadn’t started heading down the other side, and crews hoped that the arrival of cooler temperatures and higher humidity today might slow its growth. Some homes are on the other side of the ridge from the fire in the West Rifle Creek valley.

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.

Brit McLin, a division chief for Colorado River Fire Rescue, said at one point sustained winds of 25 mph were reported at the scene, with gusts up to 40 mph.


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