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RANGELY I Last week’s Spring Creek fire, which burned 1,349 acres, all in Rio Blanco County, was caused by a human act.
“We have determined it was a human cause,” 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. “However, the investigation isn’t complete yet. I don’t have the details at this time, but it wasn’t a natural start. I’ve been told it could be a couple of weeks off (before the investigation is completed).”
The fire, located 18 miles southeast of Rangely, is 90 percent contained. “There is as complete a fire perimeter as is going to be built,” Barclay said. “The last 10 percent is comprised of cliff face and downed power lines. That last 10 percent is too unsafe to send firefighters in, but the cliff face is also a natural barrier. Sometimes (the fire) runs out of vegetation or fuel to burn, or it runs up to rocks or other natural barriers, or the weather changes. There’s no 100 percent guarantee, but we feel confident that it is secure. By Saturday evening, they felt they had it fully contained as much as they could.”
“We are in the process of accessing damages,” said Dick Welle, general manager of White River Electric Association of Meeker. “Several of our 138KV transmission structures in the western system are destroyed. Preliminary estimates could reach $500,000, and repairs could take several months.”
Barclay said the fire will continue to be monitored. “The crews have been demobilized, but we will do reconnaissance flights, so we’ll be monitoring from the air. That’s a pretty good way to assess what’s going on down on the ground,” she said.
A local incident management team was mobilized to manage the fire. Nearly 150 people were involved either in fighting the fire or as support personnel and included Rio Blanco County, Rangely Fire Department, U.S. Forest Service, BLM and Colorado State Forest Service.
The fire started July 28 in a canyon bottom on the East Fork of Spring Creek, on private land, and then burned on to BLM public land.
“I don’t know exactly how the cost will fall out on this,” Barclay said. “It depends on the jurisdiction of the fire. I would hate to guess (what will happen).”
Barclay said Spring Creek was the biggest fire so far this season in the area, as far as land involved.