Wildland Fire zapped by Gilpin Fire Departments

Barbara Lawlor
Gilpin County

Last Thursday, Jan. 24, about 5:30 p.m. Gilpin County Fire departments were toned out to respond to a wildland fire in Russell Gulch, an area pitted with mining claims, therefore on private property. The fire had apparently been started by an abandoned campfire. Dark was coming on fast and the wind was whipping up the dry grasses on the rocky ridge where the smoke could be seen.
Three Timberline firefighters, five Central City firefighters and four from Clear Creek were ready to start the precarious hike to the fire. It was a nasty night, but there was a lot of unburned fuel in the area, so the firefighters were ready to go.
After a helicopter scouted the area and reported that there were no structures threatened and the fire was moving into a rock field, it was decided to send the firefighters out in the morning.
The crews set out about 9 a.m., hiking up on scree, carrying hand tools and water. It was about a two-mile hike. One of them said, “We were all lucky that the fire was up against the rocks. It was mostly burning duff instead of trees. We had to move a lot of rocks to get to the hot spots.”
The fire wasn’t spreading fast, but the firefighters had to move a lot of rocks to get the grasses smoldering in between. The whole fire area was about 200 feet by 50 feet.
The firefighters stuck with the fire for the next 24 hours, making sure all the hot spots were out. One of them expressed amazement that there is still a fire danger, even at the end of January, when the mountains are usually blanketed in a snow covering.