A nearly 15-acre fire that ignited near Rampart Reservoir early last week, prompting a parade of emergency service vehicles, has been successfully dosed and reported as 100 percent contained.
But the blaze, referred to as the Talcott fire, has sparked major concerns in the area and even warnings from local elected leaders.
“We were very fortunate. We were lucky. We aren’t always going to be that lucky,” said Green Mountain Falls Mayor Jane Newberry, during a trustees meeting last week, in issuing a stern warning to residents and urging them to cleanse their properties of dangerous fuels and flammable material. The lack of tree and vegetation-thinning by residents in the lower Ute Pass has made local firefighters quite nervous.
Newberry made it clear that if the winds had switched directions, forcing the blaze across U.S. Hwy. 24, local residents may have faced dire consequences.
This marked the second major blaze that GMF and many Ute Pass residents escaped unscathed due to a bout of good fortune in the last five years.
Newberry lauded the work of local firefighters and the air support the region received in battling the blaze. “It meant a big difference,” said the mayor. Plus, the battle was assisted by previous fuel reduction projects around the Rampart Range area, following the Waldo Canyon blaze.
“Firefighters were able to contain it a lot faster and make sure it didn’t spread,” said Larry Helmerick, a U.S. Forest Service representative, according to an article in The (Colorado Springs) Gazette. “The fuel reduction project helped us immeasurably on the initial attack on the fire.”
Even though was fire was tamed by the late evening of Oct. 17, less than nine hours after it began, authorities didn’t take any chances. Stage One fire restrictions were issued immediately in the unincorporated sections of El Paso County and in Green Mountain Falls. These restrictions completely banned outdoor smoking, except from an enclosed vehicle or a developed recreation site, along with all open burning or using fireworks and portable wood burning.
For a brief period last week, the fire scene brought back horrific memories of the Waldo Canyon blaze of 2012. Evacuations occurred for Schubarth Trail, the Farish area, Rampart Reservoir and Rampart Range Road, south of Loy Creek. This resulted in the evacuation of 37 homes, and shortly after this development, the threat of a U.S. Hwy. 24 closure prevailed.
Fire rescue crews had to fight the blaze on foot due to the terrain. The firefighting efforts also were assisted by helicopters and air support for much of the afternoon.
Several area departments responded to the scene, along with members of the Colorado Springs Utilities. For much of the afternoon, the Woodland Park area and lower Ute Pass was bombarded with emergency service vehicles. Officials from such agencies as U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Green Mountain Falls/Chipita Park Fire Department, Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District, Colorado State Patrol and El Paso and Teller County sheriff departments assisted in the firefighting efforts. Several fire engines, two crews and one water tender remained on scene through the middle of last week, according to officials.
An emergency fire staging was set up in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Woodland Park. However, the flames weren’t visible from Woodland Park.
Jacqueline Kirby, a spokesperson for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department, maintained that the conditions, with huge gusts of wind, provided the perfect conditions for a devastating blaze. She urged residents to remain vigilant and to monitor media reports.
The fire was started southwest of the reservoir. Officials now believe that the fire was sparked by someone shooting in the area.
In the aftermath of the Talcott fire, many concerns still remain and conditions are considered extremely dangerous for this time of year. Firefighters are still combating the Junkins fire in Custer County, which has scorched more than 16,832 acres and was reported 10 percent under control by late last week.
Scenes of the Junkins blaze commanded national media attention. At times, these scenes rivaled the heated presidential race in Colorado, considered one of the main battleground states in the race for the oval office.
In an unrelated matter, representatives of the Green Mountain Falls/Chipita Park Fire Protection District will unveil their proposed plans for building a new fire station during a meeting on Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. The district will incur a debt of an additional $3.5 million, with annual tax revenue to increase by $308,000, according to this plan. This is one of a bevy of ballot issues voters will face in November.
The meeting is scheduled at the old fire station on Ute Pass Avenue, across from the former Black Bear restaurant.