Residents, firefighters show strong emotions in wake of Golf Course Fire
Burn area remains dangerous, according to fire officials
“This can’t be happening,” said Sara Moran, recalling her thoughts when she was forced to evacuate her home Thursday afternoon due to the Golf Course Fire near Grand Lake. “This is unreal.”
Less than 30 yards from the back door of Moran’s home, the ground is covered in a rust red hue, a result of slurry being dropped by heavy air tankers. The auburn-spotted rocks and logs are a reminder of just how close she came to losing her home.
“The slurry saved our house along with the magnificent work of the fire fighters,” Moran said. “They were amazing.”
When county officials decided to issue mandatory evacuation orders Thursday afternoon, the call primarily impacted residences on County Roads 471 and 48 and areas north including the Columbine Lake neighborhood. Evacuees were allowed to return to their homes Friday evening, which prompted strong emotions that were still lingering Sunday morning.
For former firefighter Mark Vaniman, the experience was a reminder of the power of wildfires.
“I just felt helpless,” Vaniman said, describing his mood as he watched from a friend’s home outside the evacuation area. “There is nothing you can do except sit and watch it.
While the flames have died out on the Golf Course Fire and evacuees have returned to their homes, local fire officials are still warning of danger in the area, stressing the need to keep public away from the burn scar.
The Golf Course Fire, which initially flared up shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday in the Grand Lake area, sent dozens of local and regional firefighters scrambling to protect lives and homes in the residentially developed neighborhoods west of Grand Lake. Approximately 300 homes were evacuated in the area, though as of Sunday morning, after the fire reached 100 percent containment, no structures were reported damaged. Likewise, local first responders confirmed no injuries had been reported.
Fire officials said roughly 120 people helped stymie the Golf Course Fire over the weekend including two heavy air tankers dropping flame retardant, commonly known as slurry, and two helicopters utilizing water buckets. Over a dozen fire engines were on the scene working to put the flames out. Officials from Grand Lake Fire said firefighters from the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and fire districts throughout Grand County worked the fire along with assistance from crews out of South Dakota and Telluride.
Grand Lake Fire Chief Mike Long was out on foot Sunday on Golf Course Road patrolling the area and searching for hot spots. Long, while acknowledging the fire’s containment, said the fire is not officially “out” and is still considered to be smoldering. Long said firefighters will continue to actively patrol the area for the next four to five days.
“If we don’t find any heat for two or three days we will call it out,” Long said.
Long stressed the need to keep local citizens and interested visitors away from the burn area, noting the extreme danger posed by falling trees.
“A lot of the public just aren’t aware of the hazards,” Long said. “A lot of these trees aren’t healthy to begin with and then when they are fire weakened at the base, they can come down without any notice. We want to keep people out of harm’s way.”
The fire reached a total size of roughly 20 acres. Firefighters were forced to contend with over 50 spot fires that cropped up outside the main burn area. Long said fire officials have pinpointed the location where the Golf Course Fire started but have yet to determine the exact cause.
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