Fires burn more than 1,600 acres in Rio Blanco County

Smoke from the lightning-sparked Powell fire five miles northwest of Meeker could be seen from miles around. The fire has burned approximately 900 acres, including private and BLM land, part of which is on a Wilderness Study Area. The fire was 100 percent contained as of Tuesday.

Smoke from the lightning-sparked Powell fire five miles northwest of Meeker could be seen from miles around. The fire has burned approximately 900 acres, including private and BLM land, part of which is on a Wilderness Study Area. The fire was 100 percent contained as of Tuesday.
RBC I Lightning started the Powell and Little Duck fires in Rio Blanco County last week, burning more than 1,600 acres before monsoon rains helped more than 200 firefighters and a Type II fire management team contain the blazes.
The Powell fire, which started last Thursday, has burned approximately 900 acres, five miles northwest of Meeker and was 85 percent contained Tuesday morning. The lightning-sparked Little Duck fire, 13 miles southeast of Rangely and south of Buckhorn Draw in Rio Blanco County, has burned more than 700 acres on a mix of Bureau of Land Management and private land and was 90 percent contained Tuesday.
As of press time, Wednesday, both fires were 100 percent contained.
A Type II management team set up camp at Barone Middle School in Meeker Friday and by Saturday “camp” was ready to accommodate approximately 250 firefighters, who work 12 hours a day “on the line, 14 days at a time,” according to U.S. Forest Service information specialist Pat Thrasher.
“We are part of an Incident Command System, an organizational approach to dealing with wildfires and it can be applied to any natural disaster,” Thrasher said from the information office set up in one of the classrooms at BMS.
Other classrooms were occupied with other members of the Type II management team, including incident commander Todd Richardson, logistics, planning, finance, weather and other personnel to serve the firefighters.
“Through a standard process of training, everyone has the same training and skills to deal with fires of certain size and complexity,” Thrasher said of the Type II management team. “Anyone called in comes in with the same level of training and expertise, which becomes important when applying resources to the fire. We are confident in their training, everyone talks the same language and it takes an organization behind them to support them.”
The Powell fire, which also burned in a Wilderness Study Area, was being fought with two Type III helicopters, five hand crews and five engines, along with equipment and personnel from Rio Blanco County.
According to a daily update, crews continue to reinforce the fire line and cool hot spots, while providing for firefighter and public safety.
The Little Duck Fire had no growth Monday and crews worked to create and strengthen the fire line and work interior hot spots. A news release listed “power lines, Shell infrastructure, Greater Sage Grouse habitat threatened and endangered plants,” as concerns.
Five engines, one Type II hand crew and one fire module, were fighting the Little Duck fire.
Thrasher said firefighters are fed two hot meals a day and sent to the fire with a sack lunch. A shower trailer awaits firefighters from all over the western United States after they return from the line and the gymnasium is full of dining tables. Some already have their tents pitched around the school, others sleep in the classrooms next to their laptops and some sleep under the stars, to wake and start again.
Thrasher said he expected them to demobilize Wednesday (yesterday) and move on to the next fire as needed.