Pine Ridge Burn Scar Still Causing Problems
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- Bureau of Land Management officials are still facing issues from the Pine Ridge burn scar, months after the blaze was extinguished.
The Pine Ridge fire ignited on June 28, 2012 from lightning.
"That day was extremely hot, dry and windy, a red flag warning day," said John Coleman, Assistant Fire Warden with the Mesa County Sheriff's Office.
Fire activity increased over the next 24 hours and the inferno grew to the largest in Grand Junction filed office history burning 12,948 acres, racing towards the town of De Beque.
"We could see the column of smoke and knew this was a pretty active fire. We were coming with Mesa County and our two engines as well as the BLM and U.S. Forest Service had three engines responding," said Coleman.
"We hit it with everything that we had. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of retardant flew out of the Grand Junction air center and a lot of it to the Pine Ridge fire," said one of the BLM's first responders Russel Long.
Despite the fast attack on the fire conditions overnight quickly deteriorated and flames advances towards De Beque.
"Within the first 24 hours, we were seeing fire growth our fire models were predicting for a seven day fire growth," said Chris Joyner, Public Affairs Specialist with the BLM.
Because of the rapid growth, fire crews had to make a crucial decision to save the town of 500.
"Firefighters were able to conduct a burnout that very certainly saved the town of De Beque," said Joyner.
After five days of battling fire crews were able to contain and eventually extinguish the fire, but problems still linger.
"When we have a burn that is extensive as the one we have here, we lose a lot of the root structure in our vegetation that normally holds the soil in," said Joyner.
After the fire was extinguished, BLM officials documented heavy run off from rainfall moving into the Colorado River. Primary concerns are still run off damaging the railway, suffocating fish in the river and contaminating public water supply for municipalities who rely on the river for drinking water.
However, two devices were installed in the Jackson and Horseshoe Canyons to monitor heavy rainfall.
"The purpose of those devices is to alert interested parties such as Clifton Water and the railroad that a high run off event was occurring which could mean potential damage to the railroad system plus affect the water quality of the Colorado River," said Jim Dollerschell, Range Land Manager for the BLM.
The BLM also undertook a seeding effort, beginning this past summer, in order to restore native grasses to the burn scar area.
Experts say the seeding process could take years to accomplish but will seed the area again this January.