by M.Diane Bairstow
On June 16, the day after the Sheriff enacted a Level 1 Fire Ban, 3 fires of suspicious origin were started in the Crestone area approximately 30 minutes apart. An hour later, another fire erupted east of Saguache, and 1&1/2 hours later, another west of Saguache was started. These fires are under investigation by the Saguache County Sheriffs Depart and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as all but one fire was started on public lands.
The first fire was called in at 3:32pm at S. Crestone Campground and .2 acre was burned. At 4:04pm another call came in at N. Crestone Campground, and .1acre was burned. Then at 4:25 a third call sent firefighters to Twin View Overlook in the Baca, and .1 acre was burned. Then at 5:21 another call came in E. of Saguache on BLM road 5300, and it burned 5 to 7 acres, and at 6:50 pm at Ute Springs on Co. Rd AA just west of Saguache another fire was reported that burned .3 acre.
All fires were started near roadways, and none involved structures. On June 17, Lieutenant Mark Wertz said that Sheriff Mike Norris had been on the road all day looking for evidence and would continue following up this investigation. The BLM are also investigating as all but one of these fires were started on Public Lands, making it a Federal Offense. The Sheriff’s department will be stepping up patrols in our area and will be on the lookout for behavior of this sort.
The quick, professional and well-trained response of our volunteer fire departments prevented what could have been a tragedy of enormous proportions. The Twin View Overlook fire, out on the edge of the Baca and right below the Stupa road could easily have taken off up the mountain and there would have been no stopping it. With the mutual aid and combined efforts of the Baca, Crestone, Villa Grove, Saguache, Center, Moffat and U.S. Forest Service working in concert, the Crestone/Baca area and areas near Saguache were saved from a potential disaster. Once again, this community is indebted to the selfless efforts of those of our fire departments who volunteer many hours training to advert disaster.
Special thanks also to Martin Macaulay, Steve Smilack and Eddy Bieg. Martin was walking his dog in Casita Park when he saw smoke. He stopped at the first house and asked them to call the Sheriff, then he followed the smoke up to Twin View Overlook. He knocked on Steve’s door where Eddy was visiting. The three of them took shovels and contained the blaze in the original location and also at another site where the fire jumped to. They continued their efforts until the fire department arrived and took over.
Be extra vigilant, and if you see smoke, be sure to report it immediately, and if you see any suspicious activity, call the Sheriff’s Department at 655-2525, or Crime Stoppers at 589-4111 where you can remain anonymous and possibly receive a reward.
Fire Ban Saguache County has issued Level 1 Fire Restrictions, which prohibits:
1. Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, or any type of charcoal-fueled broiler or bar-b-que grill, burning ditches, fence rows and trash, including household trash.
2. Using explosive material; i.e. fireworks, blasting caps or and incendiary device which may result in ignition of flammable material.
3. Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building.
4. Welding or operating an acetylene or similar torch with an open flame.
The following actions are permitted:
1. Fires including stoves within enclosed buildings or recreational vehicles and chainsaws which are equipped with adequate spark arresting screens, which prevent the escape of sparks.
2. Mechanical stoves and appliances fueled by bottled or liquid gas which allows the operator to turn the flame on and off are permitted.
As provided by Colorado Statute, any person responsible for starting a fire while the ban is in effect will be held accountable for damages caused as well as fire suppression costs incurred.