GJ bomb squad blasts fallen tree clogging up river

A downed cottonwood tree on the Colorado River near Orchard Mesa is split and tossed into the air after an explosive was detonated Thursday by the Grand Junction Police Department’s Bomb Squad.

Glenna Coleman’s Thursday started with a bang.

Around 10:30 a.m., a phone call with a recorded message targeting her home at 328 Mountain View, on Orchard Mesa, informed her that police were about to detonate a nearby bomb for a good cause.

“Of course, that made me curious, so here I am,” Coleman said, standing at the north end of Eagle Rim Park with another half-dozen or so people, all of whom had heard scuttlebutt about a pending, purposeful blast along the banks of the Colorado River.

That blast, snapping a fallen cottonwood tree in the river around 11 a.m., left Coleman breathless.

“It made my hair move,” she said.

Twenty people — members of the Grand Junction Police Department’s Bomb Team, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department and the Grand Junction Fire Department — were on hand for several hours to remove the tree, which had cluttered waters roughly 200 yards west of the Orchard Mesa pedestrian bridge.

The bomb team’s help was requested by the Sheriff’s Department, which sought to remove a hazard for search and rescue staff and the boating public, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said.

“We’re anticipating further rescues,” she said, adding, “It doesn’t mean we’ll be out here every time a tree falls in the river.”

Authorities this week warned of a growing field of debris after 22-year-old Alex French died in a rafting accident Tuesday. The response by county search and rescue personnel to that area was the second in as many days.

Nearby trails and the pedestrian bridge were closed for roughly two hours. Up river, locations for launching watercraft remained open during the operation, but no floaters ventured along the river in the hours before the detonation. Rescuers in boats were prepared to intercept and delay rafters, if needed, Benjamin said.

The tree that was snapped Thursday was left on an island in the river, Benjamin said.

Officers on Thursday couldn’t recall any prior tree-clearing jobs for the local bomb team, police spokeswoman Kate Porras said.


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