Lightning sparks 20 fires across region

RANGELY I It was a perfect storm for wildfires.
“Our lightning map showed over 5,000 lightning strikes last Thursday between Moffat and Rio Blanco counties and eastern Utah, so we got all that lightning. Then Friday with the high winds and dry conditions, we broke about 20 fires,” said Lynn Barclay, fire mitigation/education specialist for the Bureau of Land Management office in Craig and public information officer for the interagency group Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit.
The biggest fire — the Mellen fire, named for Mellen Peak — started about five miles northwest of Rangely.
“Then it just took off,” Barclay said. “It started in the trees, but it moved quickly out into the sage and grass. The winds just sent it racing.”
The fire affected more than 3,600 acres and moved close to the Blue Mountain area.
“It was headed that direction,” Barclay said. “It got within three-quarters of a mile of Highway 40.”
She said there were no evacuations.
Leona Hemmerich, who lives in the Blue Mountain area, said she could see smoke from the BedRock Depot in Dinosaur, the business she owns along with Bill Mitchem.
“We had customers around 4:30 who asked if we knew anything about (the fire) and I went outside and saw the smoke billowing skyward,” Hemmerich said. “Then one of the park rangers who comes in regularly … talked to some of the hot shots … and they told him that if the fire came within a mile of Blue Mountain, they would ask us to evacuate. That didn’t happen, but I did what I could to protect my property anyway. Planes were circling overhead to watch the fire. BLM bombers came to drop slurry and a helicopter came a number of times to get water out of a pond that is just south of us. That kept up until the wind finally died down. Then everything else seemed to settle down as well.”
The Mellen fire, which started shortly after noon last Friday, was 100 percent contained as of Tuesday.
“It made its big push Friday in those high winds,” Barclay said.
Another fire that started Friday, the Scenery Gulch fire, located eight miles northwest of Meeker, affected 380 acres, but as of Tuesday was reported as 100 percent contained.