|A structure fire nearly expanded into a wildland fire disaster Saturday when a metal-sided workshop caught fire at 1 p.m. on Fremont County Road 143 just north of the Custer County border with Fremont County.
Trying to contain the growing flames, 20 neighbors brought shovels, small tanks of water, buckets, and garden hoses to stop the fire from expanding to the dry pinion trees that surrounded the building. As flames consumed the building, a skid-steer tractor attempted to collapse the building that had not caught fire; when that attempt failed, the tractor operator tried vainly to fling dirt onto the fire.
The Oak Creek volunteer fire department consisting of an old Army truck loaded with six empty, 300 gallon containers, and a converted 1970’s era pickup truck, responded immediately to the fire. However, the empty Army truck had to drive past the fire into Custer County and fill the tanks with water from a beaver pond using a water pump that hooked up to a generator. It took over 45 minutes for the crew to place the first stream of water on the flames.
The fire was only fully subdued when a crew from the Wet Mountain Volunteer Fire Department in Westcliffe arrived on the scene.
Fortunately, winds that day were calm and the fire burned without spreading to the trees and bordering national forest, but it could have easily exploded into a fire that would have consumed acreage similar to that of the 18,403 Junkins Park Fire that started in late 2016.
The near disaster miss demonstrated if wind had been present, the haphazard response possibly would have been inadequate. – Jordan Hedberg