Wild Rose Fire grows to 850 acres in Rio Blanco County

— The Wild Rose Fire in Rio Blanco County, just west of Texas Mountain, grew to 850 acres Wednesday night, and firefighters are struggling to control the blaze in the face of limited access and rugged terrain in the area.

Multiple structures and numerous gas and oil facilities are in the immediate vicinity. The oil and gas facilities have been shut down and all Encana employees have safely left the area.

In addition, 40 children and an unknown number of adults were evacuated from a youth camp on private land about one mile from the flames.

The Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office and Rio Blanco County Road and Bridge are managing road closures in the area. To protect both the public and the fire crews in the area, Rio Blanco County Road 116 has been closed from Colorado Highway 130 to RBCR 113. RBCR 107 is closed from Colorado Highway 139 to RBCR 116.

The Craig Interagency Dispatch Center received a call at about 1:45 p.m. Wednesday reporting black smoke curling into the sky on Bureau of Land Management land near Oil Spring Mountain.

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team has been called in to assist with the efforts to control the Wild Rose Fire.

“Delegating management of our largest incident to the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team will allow us to focus on existing and new wildfires,” said Jim Michels Northwest Colorado Fire Management Duty Officer in a statement released by the Bureau of Land Management.

High winds have fanned the flames and carried embers as far as one half mile from the main body of the fire. The sea of flames has spread to the east, changing course from Wednesday’s northwestern trajectory.

Smokejumpers based in Grand Junction scrambled Wednesday and flew to the scene, but the same high southwesterly winds that pushed the fire northward prevented the crew from making their aerial assault.

The mission was aborted and the crew was forced to reach the blaze by ground.

Wild Rose is believed to be a holdover fire, sometimes called a sleeper fire, from a lightning strike several days ago according to Lynn Barclay, a spokesperson for BLM.

“We’ve seen (holdover fires) happen weeks after the event that started the fire,” she said, likening the phenomenon to reviving a campfire from embers. “When conditions are right, like the wind we have right now, the fire will ignite and become an open flame.

Two smaller wildfires are also burning in the area. One small fire is burning just one tenth of an acre across Highway 193 and is close to the Wild Rose Fire. A larger blaze is scorching BLM land in the Piceance Basin about 40 miles southwest of Meeker in Ryan Gulch.

As of 9 p.m. Thursday morning the Wild Rose Fire was uncontained and continuing to spread.

Andie Tessler can be contacted at at 970-875-1793 or atessler@CraigDailyPress.com.

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