Grass fire east of Lamar contained after burning 5,000+ acres, destroying three outbuildings
PROWERS COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- A fire between Lamar and Granada that began Wednesday afternoon burned more than 5,000 acres, authorities confirmed.
According to Prowers County officials, Prowers County Rural Fire was paged to a grass fire on March 22 at 3:58 p.m. burning along Highway 50, east of Lamar at mile marker 443.
The first units on the scene reported the fire was moving northeast from Highway 50 toward the Arkansas River, County Road 19, and CO Highway 196.
"There was a bit of traffic along the highways and getting fire equipment in and out of the initial stages became difficult," said Fire Chief Staffon Warn. "The situation improved after we were able to close the highways."
A Code Red was issued by Prowers County E911 to alert nearby residents of the fire.
Among the first to notice the fire was Jessica Hieronymus; she lives three miles away from the fire zone and began receiving text messages from her sister who works at a local school.
"Thankfully, it was blowing away from us," she said. "A lot of farmers (perform) controlled fires to burn (dead vegetation) from their fields before planting. Most of the time, they pay attention to the weather and are careful about how they burn. Unfortunately, with the main highways around here, we get a lot of cigarette butts flipped out (from passing vehicles)."
The Prowers County Sheriff's office is investigating what caused the fire.
The fire grew quickly due to the dry and windy conditions; by 1:30 a.m. Thursday, crews had managed to contain it to the Arkansas River bottom.
Lamar Light and Power and Southeast Colorado Power did suffer losses of utility poles around Hwy. 196, which left some residents temporarily without power.
According to officials, three outbuildings, including corrals, were lost in the fire, and three homes were threatened, but didn't burn.
"The flames got within 150 yards of a house and also got pretty close to a business," said Ron Cook, a county commissioner and volunteer firefighter. "But the crews did a great job of protecting those structures."
So far, no injuries or animal losses have been reported.
The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention flew over the fire Thursday to look for hotspots and map the burn area; officials believe the fire burned an estimated 5,604 acres.
In addition to the 14 agencies that responded to the fire, officials said that the county's Road and Bridge department, along with numerous local farmers and ranchers, assisted with tractors, blades, discs, and water trucks.
"If it wasn't for them, it would be hard to contain a fire like this," Warn said. "We have fire trucks but there are places they just can't reach."
Cook said that the biggest challenge for firefighters was cutting through property line fences to get close to the fire.
"We covered around eight square miles," he explained. "We've been in a pretty sever drought for the last five or six years. We got only a few inches of snow this winter. And we just had a 1,000-acre fire west of here a few weeks ago. It makes us nervous. We just hope that we don't have any more."
That fire burned after starting in a home in Bent County, authorities said; the cause has yet to be determined.