4 wildland fires ignite around Moffat County Thursday afternoon

Derek Maiolo
Craig Fire/Rescue respond to a wildland fire on Moffat County Road 183 Thursday. It was one of four fires reported Thursday afternoon.

Officials responded to four wildland fires in Moffat County on Thursday afternoon.

Craig Fire/Rescue and BLM responded to a fire on the bypass in Craig at 2101 Moffat County Road 183.

Fire officials also responded to a fire at 487 County Road 18 South and a third fire on Highway 40 near mile marker 98.

As firefighters tackled the three fires, a fourth fire sprung up at 616 Moffat County Road 31.

Officials managed to contain a portion of the bypass fire that was threatening a nearby residence. The owners of the house as well as neighbors helped shovel dirt on the small flames. Larger flames spread across the hillside to the north of the residence. Firefighters continued to battle these flames as gusts of wind caused scattered eruptions.

The fire on County Road 31 began just a hundred feet from the Longwell residence. A large aflame woodpile constituted the majority of the fire. Investigator Gary Nichols was the first to respond to the scene. He saw the smoke as he was following a separate investigation and said that residents of the home were already tackling the fire when he arrived.

“Individuals were spraying the fire with a water hose,” Nichols said.

While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Nichols said it appears to have been man-made. Five of the Longwell children were home alone while their parents were at work. James Longwell, 16, was burning rabbit hutches with a torch when he saw a piece of wood that had caught on fire. No animals or humans were hurt in the fire.

“I grabbed it and put it outside,” James Longwell said.

While the wood was not on fire when he left it, James said it may have still had live embers on it that caught flame.

“I went back in the barn and a minute later there were flames outside,” he said.

At that time, Mercy Longwell, 12, called 911 to report the fire. The flames were quickly extinguished, and investigator Nichols said there were no injuries and minimal property damages. Still, the Longwell children are a bit worried about what their parents will say when they get home.

“They probably won’t be very happy,” Nathan Longwell said.

To report a fire, call 911 and provide your location, the location of the fire, landmarks, description of fire behavior, smoke color (white, black, etc.) and if the fire is threatening structures or other values.

Fire danger is high in Rio Blanco and Moffat Counties and moderate in Grand, Jackson and Routt Counties, according to a press release from the Bureau of Land Management. Higher temperatures and dry conditions are forecast through next week. Vegetation at lower elevations continues to dry out as seasonal curing occurs.

“Any winds that develop, particularly in the afternoon when temperatures are at their peak, will spread fire quickly in grass and brush,” Assistant Fire Management Officer Jim Michels said in a statement.

BLM officials advise the community to be extra cautious during the dry, hot weather.

When using fire outdoors fire officials remind people to be aware of their surroundings, such as dry vegetation, and know what’s anticipated with weather situations like high winds, according to the press release.

No fire restrictions are in effect in Northwest Colorado.

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