UPDATED ON TUESDAY, JULY 3, AT 2: 06 P.M.
Helicopter Firefighters Douse and Contain Wildfire Near Ouray
by Samantha Wright
Jul 02, 2012 | 4008 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CONTAINED! – A Bureau of Land Management firefighting helicopter based in Rifle responded to a wildfire on Whitehouse Mountain west of Ouray earlier this week. Authorities believe the fire to be fully contained. (Courtesy photo by Eric Funk)
CONTAINED! – A Bureau of Land Management firefighting helicopter based in Rifle responded to a wildfire on Whitehouse Mountain west of Ouray earlier this week. Authorities believe the fire to be fully contained. (Courtesy photo by Eric Funk)
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OURAY – A wildfire on the east slope of Whitehouse Mountain near Ouray was quickly contained by a helicopter firefighting crew on Monday, July 2.

The blaze burned about an acre of mixed conifer forest near timberline on the flanks of the 13,510-foot peak before it was contained. A two-person scouting team from Montrose Interagency Fire set out Tuesday morning to hike to the site of the blaze and assess the need for further action.

At press time, the crew was getting “very close” to the site, hiking through “extremely steep country,” said Engine Captain Frank Rice who was standing by in Fellin Park. 

Depending on what the scouting crew found when they reached the site of the blaze, Rice said that a firefighting helicopter may be deployed to drop more water on the area.

“This year, we’re going full suppression in every fire,” Rice said.

Authorities believe the Whitehouse fire was started by a lightning strike several days ago. 

Ouray County Sheriff Junior Mattivi said his department received the call for the fire early Monday afternoon. “We got the Ouray Volunteer Fire Department mobilized and sent a crew of five firefighters hiking to see if they could get to the fire,” Mattivi said.

As luck would have it, a Bureau of Land Management firefighting helicopter based out of  Rifle was in the area and responded to the scene as well.

The Sheriff’s Department got permission from property owners at Black Lake north of Ouray for the specially equipped chopper to fill its bucket with water from the lake. The helicopter could be seen from the streets of Ouray throughout the late afternoon and early evening on Monday, flying back and forth from Black Lake up the Oak Creek drainage to drop water on the blaze. 

In all, Mattivi estimates the chopper made seven to eight drops, at a little over a hundred gallons per bucket. In its last pass, the chopper lost its bucket. “We’re not sure what happened –  if the wind got too bad and the pilot threw it off, or if it got stuck on a tree,” Mattivi said. 

Nevertheless, the effort proved successful. As dusk approached, the fire was pronounced to be mostly contained, and the Ouray Valley Fire Department ground crew turned around and headed for home.

Mattivi estimates that a little less than an acre of forest burned in the blaze. The site of the fire was about 100 feet below tree line, he said. At press time, spotters reported very little smoke coming from the area.

In all, it has been a good outcome, Mattivi said. “There were no houses threatened, no people threatened. We were pretty lucky there.”

Authorities will continue to watch the site through the week in case the fire flares up again.

It is the third wildfire call in less than a week in Ouray County. Late on the evening of June 27, the OVFD was called out to respond to a fire on Jack Ass Flats up County Road 14. “The fire was underneath a large tree and the trunk of the tree was all charred,” Mattivi said. “We put a good 500-600 gallons of water on that, too.” Mattivi suspects this fire was human-caused, “but we don’t know who or when,” he said. 

Another wildfire which ignited in Elk Meadows up County Road 5 near Ridgway last week was quickly extinguished by the Ridgway Volunteer Fire Department.



UPDATED ON TUESDAY, JULY 3, AT 12: 40 P.M.


Whitehouse Fire Remains Contained

OURAY – The Whitehouse wildfire near Ouray remains contained at this time. A small wildlands firefighting crew from Montrose Interagency Fire set out this morning to hike to the site of the blaze and assess the need for further action. 

As of this time, the crew is getting “very close,” hiking through steep, heavily wooded terrain, said Engine Captain Frank Rice who was standing by in Fellin Park. 

A firefighting helicopter may be deployed to drop more water on the area, should the scouting crew deem such action necessary. The chopper dropped hundreds of gallons of water on the blaze yesterday, containing it before it had a chance to spread.

The fire was called in on Monday afternoon, July 2. It burned about an acre of mixed conifer forest near timberline on the flanks of 13,510-foot Whitehouse Mountain west of Ouray before it was contained. Authorities believe it was started by a lightning strike several days ago.  



BLM Crew Contains Wildfire Near Ouray (PUBLISHED MONDAY, JULY 2)

OURAY – A small wildfire high on the flanks of Whitehouse Mountain near Ouray is contained this evening thanks to the speedy response of a BLM fire fighting crew and helicopter.

Ouray County Sheriff Junior Mattivi said his department received a call early this afternoon, July 2, for a possible lightning strike just below Whitehouse Mountain. “We got the Ouray Volunteer Fire Department mobilized and sent a crew of five firefighters hiking to see if they could get to the fire,” Mattivi said.

As luck would have it, a Bureau of Land Management firefighting crew and helicopter were in the area and responded to the scene as well.

The Sheriff’s Department got permission from property owners at Black Lake north of Ouray for the specially equipped BLM firefighting chopper to fill its bucket with water from the lake. The helicopter could be seen from the streets of Ouray throughout the late afternoon and early evening, flying back and forth from Black Lake up the Oak Creek drainage to drop water on the blaze.

In all, Mattivi estimates the chopper made seven to eight drops, at a little over a hundred gallons per bucket.

The effort was successful. As dusk approached, the fire was pronounced to be mostly contained, and the OVFD ground crew turned around and headed for home.

In all, Mattivi estimates that a little less than an acre of forest burned in the blaze. The site of the fire is about 100 feet below tree line, he said.

In the morning, the BLM will send its crew and helicopter back up to the site of the blaze to reassess the situation. “If the fire hasn’t settled down, they will do some more drops,” Mattivi said, adding that although the weather is windy this evening, it is also quite cool and humid, which should discourage the fire from reigniting and spreading.

In all, it was a good outcome, he said. “There were no houses threatened, no people threatened. We were pretty lucky there.”

It is the third wildfire call in less that a week in Ouray County. Late on the evening of June 27, the OVFD was called out to respond to a fire on Jack Ass Flats up County Road 14. “The fire was underneath a large tree and the trunk of the tree was all charred,” Mattivi said. “We put a good 500-600 gallons of water on that, too.” Mattivi suspects this fire was human-caused, “but we don’t know who or when,” he said.

Another wildfire which ignited in Elk Meadows up County Road 5 near Ridgway last week was quickly extinguished by the Ridgway Volunteer Fire Department. 

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