Thunderstorms that passed through Northwest Colorado Monday and Tuesday left a mark that can still be seen today. Lightning from the storms ignited a 110-acre fire a half-mile north of Meeker.
The fire was 75 percent contained by 10 a.m. today, and officials expect full-containment by 6 p.m.
The fire, dubbed the "Black Diamond Fire," was reported late Wednesday afternoon. It started on private land and spread onto Bureau of Land Management public land, moving through an old fire scar in piand juniper trees, grass and oak brush.
According to BLM Fire Information Officer Lynn Barclay, steep terrain and erratic winds made the initial attack by firefighters difficult.
"Not only was the fire hard to reach, but due to sudden wind shifts, the direction of the fire would change quickly on firefighters," Barclay said.
A helicopter is working on the fire by dropping buckets of water on hot spots and the fire's perimeter. And air tanker took to the sky Thursday to lay retardant on the waste and northeast flanks of the nearby Sage Hills subdivision. The tanker is on standby today, and won't be used unless the need arises.
The helicopter, two 10-member squads and one fire engine are working to contain the blaze today.
"We moved the containment up from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. because we didn't get the high gusting winds that lead to spotting and feed the intensity," Barclay said.
The Sage Hills subdivision, comprised of approximately 20 homes, sits a quarter of a mile south of the fire perimeter. The fire has been moving north away from the homes, and fire engines have been posted throughout the subdivision for structure protection in the event of a wind shift. An existing dozer line around the north end of Sage Hills was widened and extended north as a preventative fire break.
According to Barclay, no homes are threatened.
Fire growth on this incident was unexpected because of the lush and green appearance of area vegetation. Moisture levels in live vegetation took a sudden drop over the past few days.
Two BLM engines were dispatched for the initial attack. The Meeker Volunteer Fire Department, Rio Blanco Road and Bridge Department, Rio Blanco Sheriff's Department and the Meeker Police Department joined firefighting efforts. Additional ground support includes crews from the BLM Craig Hot Shots and crew members from the Type II Upper Colorado River Crew Out of Rifle.
The BLM is "closely monitoring" a second blaze that is burning in the Black Mountain Wilderness Study area, according to Lynn Barclay, Fire Information Officer for the Bureau of Land Management Snake River Office.
"The [Black Diamond] fire was the priority for us, and since this fire is in a wilderness area, and not near any structures or developments, we're managing this situation as a fire use we're going to allow the fire to take it's natural role in the ecosystem," she said.
The BLM will monitor the fire, and should it approach pre-set parameters, fire suppression will be considered. Until that time, the BLM is going to allow the fire to act as an agent of nature, burning off excess fuels and participating in the ecosystem's renewal and growth processes.