Undersheriff: Fire damaged 500 acres but was not set intentionally
MEEKER — Travis Adams of Meeker has been charged with starting a trash fire last Friday that damaged 500 acres just northeast of town and took firefighters more than four hours to contain.
“Basically, that means he started a fire which damaged the property of another; however, it was not intentional,” said Rio Blanco County Undersheriff Mike Joos.
One Meeker firefighter suffered smoke inhalation. She was treated and released.
“The winds picked up and the fire spread from the landowner’s property to adjacent property to the north and east,” Joos said.
The call of a wildfire was reported at 2:14 p.m., and units from the Meeker Fire Department and Sheriff’s Office were dispatched.
Adams, who has a construction business, was burning trash piles behind Meeker Collision. The charge — unintentionally starting a fire that caused damage to private property — is a misdemeanor, Joos said.
As the blaze spread, additional help was called in, including fire units from the BLM as well as road graders and a D-9 bulldozer from a private contractor and the Rio Blanco County Road and Bridge Department responded.
“While heavy equipment began to cut fire lines, units began to set up for structure protection on several homes in the direct path of the fire,” Joos said. “One home (at 988 County Road 15) was completely surrounded by fire, and the fire unit and deputies had to abandon that structure once the fire began to surround the residence.”
Two firefighters stayed to shut off a 500-gallon propane tank and encountered heavy smoke. One of the firefighters who stayed behind, Melissa Kindall, suffered smoke inhalation. She was transported to Pioneers Medical Center, where she was treated and released.
To the surprise of firefighters, the house was not damaged.
“That house didn’t get touched,” Joos said. “It was unbelievable. They (the homeowners) had cleared the ground all the way around the house. They had completely cleared all of the brush away. That kept the house from burning. The fire went all the way around up to the dirt. We thought that house was gone.”
In all, 11 different agencies or private companies, eight fire units, 18 firefighters, 10 law enforcement officers and about a dozen members of private companies and volunteers assisted in extinguishing the fire.