Friday, July 11, 2014

Colorado Gulch Fire fully contained

Investigations continue into cause of blaze that threatened Croy homes

Express Staff Writer

This aerial photo by Wood River Valley pilot Steven Garman shows the 728-acre burn area of the Colorado Gulch Fire. The city of Hailey is in the center-right of the photo. Croy Canyon is to the left of the burn area. Colorado Gulch is to the right. Photo by Steven Garman

    The Colorado Gulch Fire that burned 728 acres of sagebrush and grasslands in Croy Canyon west of Hailey this week has been fully contained and firefighters were expected to have full control by Thursday night.
    Kelsey Dehoney, public information officer for the Twin Falls district of the Bureau of Land Management, said Thursday morning that a few crews would monitor the fire area Thursday to look for interior hot spots. Once full control is reached, those crews would be released from work on the fire, she said.
    The fire started at approximately 7:30 p.m. Sunday about three miles west of Hailey and quickly spread through dry brush and grass. Local fire agencies responded and promptly started work to slow the fire and protect structures in the canyon. The fire threatened several houses but none were burned.
    A major response by the BLM followed Monday. Firefighting helicopters, hotshot crews and a DC-10 air tanker were brought in to help subdue the blaze. By Tuesday, growth of the fire was essentially stopped.
    By Thursday, all restrictions on access to Croy Canyon and surrounding areas had been lifted. In the end, the blaze had burned a large area on a hillside that divides Colorado Gulch from Croy Canyon.
    Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey reported on Monday that the fire was human-caused. Ramsey said an 18-year-old man had confessed to starting the blaze with fireworks.
    On Thursday, Ramsey said both the BLM and the Sheriff’s Office are conducting investigations into the cause of the blaze. The fire was started on private land but the land that burned was primarily BLM land, officials said. Ramsey said no determination has been made whether criminal charges will be filed. Charges could range from illegal use of fireworks to arson, but a charge of arson would require proving intent to start the wildfire, he said.
    “I want it to be fair, and I want it to be accurate,” Ramsey said of the investigation.
    Ramsey said his investigation would likely conclude in the next week. He said the name of the man who confessed is not being released because no charges have been filed.
    Dehoney said the BLM investigation could last several weeks, and the agency would determine a response once the investigation is closed.
    Ramsey praised the Hailey community for cooperating during the fire.
    “People in the community responded very well,” he said. “The whole thing was to keep the people safe and to get the fire out.”

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