Montrose got a sharp reminder of dry conditions Friday, when a controlled fire blew out of control off Spring Creek Road, charring about 40 acres of sage and grass between residential neighborhoods and taking a run uphill toward homes.
Although crews initially turned to structure protection near the burning field, ultimately, there was no active threat to structures, Montrose Fire Protection District Chief Tad Rowan said.
From the bluff above the burning terrain, Newport Drive resident Burl Bise watched the flames and crews from his backyard, as family members kept a utility hose going to wet the brush at the edge of the property.
Bise said he was not worried about the fire, which was several yards downhill from the neighborhood.
He also said the MFPD had responded quickly — there had been no activity when he was picking up his daughter from school, but by the time they arrived home, crews were all over the neighborhood, working to monitor and contain the fire.
Engine crews posted in the neighborhood monitored from above, ready to go if the fire ran all the way up the hill, while firefighters below worked the blaze from all sides to pinch it off.
Part of suppression entailed igniting additional fire to burn out a dense fuel area and establish a firebreak. Although water sources were slim, the control tactics help reduce the need for water. Trucks were able to fill up from nearby hydrants, bringing thousands of gallons of water on-scene.
The response was resource-heavy, with multiple personnel and equipment deployed, plus assistance from the state Division of Fire Prevention and Control. During crews’ hours-long battle with flames and smoke, another out of control burn erupted in the 60000 of Spring Creek Road, plus a medical call came in. The fire district activated off-duty personnel to come in and staff its three stations as a result.
The second Spring Creek fire was contained within about 25 minutes, allowing those crew members to return to the larger burn, Rowan said.
The larger fire was considered contained late Friday afternoon. Rowan said crews were remaining on scene into the night to keep the perimeter secure and put out hot spots to avoid rekindling.
With spring here, farmers and others are beginning agricultural burns. Rowan reminded everyone to check conditions before burning and to have plenty of help and tools on hand to put out fires that get out of control.
“We would like to caution people to make sure if they’re doing controlled agricultural burns that they have adequate resources to conduct their burn and that they burn earlier in the day, prior to the seasonal winds picking up,” he said.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.