Grass fire destroys home, burns 1,000 acres near Gilcrest

Grass fire destroys home, burns 1,000 acres near Gilcrest

24 September 2010

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USA —  A fire fueled by strong winds spread across more than 1,000 acres of farmland Thursday afternoon, destroying a vacant home and three other small structures about 10 miles southeast of Greeley.

The fire was reported near Weld County roads 49 and 44 at 3:08 p.m. when a vacant home and three other small agricultural structures caught fire. No injuries were reported.

Trees along Weld 49 were charred and still smoldering and a plume of black smoke continued to rise into the sky Thursday evening as more than 40 firefighters from six departments kept the fire in check and snuffed out patches of hot spots scattered around the property.

“The conditions are extremely dry,” said Barry Schaefer, fire chief for the Platte Valley Fire Protection District. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it this dry in fall. It kind of makes me wonder what’s to come in the coming months,”

Along with the structures that burned, two metal shipping containers with unknown contents exploded during the blaze. Also, three oil companies operate wells in the burn area and managed to close them off, keeping the fire from spreading and their equipment from being damaged.

Despite 15-35 mph winds, firefighters contained the grass fire surrounding the structures in about three hours early Thursday evening, and were working to put out the remaining structural fires and hot spots into the night.

To help help firefighters, multiple private contractors brought in water trucks to give firefighters the water they needed to contain the blaze.

The source of the fire is still under investigation, but Schaefer said failure to maintain the property could have been a contributing factor in the fire.

The house that was destroyed had been unoccupied for an unknown period of time, and the grass surrounding the house was unkempt, tall and dry. The owner of the property, whose name was not released, now lives in Texas, and was in the process of moving equipment from his Colorado home to his Texas home. According to Schaefer, the machinery left around the property may have played a part in the spread of the fire.

In the wake of the recent fires in Colorado, and with conditions as dry as they are, Schaefer urged people to take precautionary measures for the sake of fire prevention.

“Clear the brush and debris, trees, anything that might be a fire hazard, until we can get some moisture to subside this issue,” Schaefer said. “With no rain in sight, everybody needs to be prudent with their own property. Mow the grass around it, get rid of the equipment, things like that that may cause fires. It makes our jobs that much easier.”

An estimate of the cost of damages was not immediately available.

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