Plane crashes en route to Moffat blaze

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Moffat County fires

Mayberry Fire

• Located 32 miles northwest of Craig

• Started Sunday

• 27,000 acres burned

• Burning in sagebrush and tall grasses on Bureau of Land Management property, private lands

• 50 percent contained

• Expected to be fully contained by Today

Prong fire

• Located 23 miles northwest of Craig

• Started Sunday

• 5,150 acres burned

• Jumped containment lines Tuesday night

• Burning sagebrush and grass on BLM, private lands

• Containment percentage unknown

Lone Fire

• Located 15 miles north of Elk Springs

• Started Sunday

• 950 acres burned

• Burning pinion, juniper and sage on BLM, private lands

• 75 percent contained

• Two homes in area not immediately threatened

• Full containment expected by today

A single-engine air tanker crashed Wednesday in Rio Blanco County while attempting to subdue a growing fire. No serious injuries were reported in the crash.

The crash occurred about 3 p.m. while responding to a fire about 20 miles northwest of Meeker that was reported at 10:25 a.m. Wednesday.

The blaze likely was sparked by lightning Tuesday night, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The pilot, who was contracted with the BLM, was evacuated by helicopter to Grand Junction and was conscious and mobile at the time.

The BLM is withholding the pilot's name at this time.

The cause of the crash is still unknown and is under investigation, the BLM reported in a news release.

"It started picking up intensity, so that's when they called air support because the goal is to keep the fire small," said David Boyd, BLM public affairs specialist for Northwest Colorado.

Controlling a fire in its early stages is important, he said, especially when resources are already stretched thin.

Such was the case Wednesday, when crews also were combatting three main fires and more than 30 smaller ones in Moffat County.

Meanwhile, blazes that began in Moffat County earlier this week appeared to be holding their own against fire crews Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, none of three fires was fully contained. BLM officials anticipated two fires to come under firefighters' control by today.

In a concerted effort, multiple agencies at local, state and federal levels are battling fires roaring across Moffat County.

"Fire crews and resources from Moffat County, the towns of Maybell and Meeker, State Forest Service, the BLM, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service are working together to (manage) these fires," the BLM reported in a news release.

However, 21 firefighters recently focused their efforts on a new 350-acre fire that started Monday about 7 miles northwest of Meeker.

Meanwhile, remaining crews tried to contain pre-existing fires in Moffat County.

A fire that has ignited 27,000 acres 32 miles northwest of Craig remained 50 percent contained as of Wednesday afternoon. Fire crews expect to have the fire fully contained by today, the BLM reported in a news release.

The fire is burning in sagebrush and tall grasses on property belonging to the Bureau of Land Management and private landowners.

With the support of a heavy air tanker and two single-engine air tankers, a team of 77 firefighters attempted to subdue the flames Wednesday.

Fire crews have named this fire the Mayberry Fire in reference to Mayberry Springs, which is located near the fire about 5 miles west of Great Divide. In most cases, firefighters name fires after natural landmarks, Boyd said.

The name of the fire bears no relation to Maybell, a town about 30 miles west of Craig.

The Lone Fire, located 15 miles north of Elk Springs, has burned 950 acres of pinion, juniper and sage on private and BLM lands. It has been 75 percent contained, and full containment is expected by today, the BLM reported in a news release.

The third of Moffat County's major blazes still was uncontained Wednesday afternoon after it jumped containment lines Tuesday night. The Prong fire, sparked Sunday 23 miles northwest of Craig, consumed an additional 250 acres since Tuesday, bringing its total burnt acreage up to 5,150 acres of private and BLM lands.

Fire crews thought they had the fire contained Tuesday afternoon. At about 7 p.m. that night, however, the fire had burned past containment lines.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1795 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

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