Boulder County investigators have determined that a wildfire that burned half an acre near the base of Flagstaff Mountain on Tuesday was caused by an ember that escaped a slash pile burned by area residents.
The fire, which broke out near Fifth Avenue just west of the city limits, was first reported around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, officials said. While crews contained the blaze in less than an hour, flames as high as 2 to 3 feet were reported, and Flagstaff Road was temporarily closed.
Boulder County Emergency Services investigators announced Wednesday that the fire was caused by residents who were burning garden slash outdoors.
Cmdr. Heidi Prentup, of the Boulder County Sheriff's Office, said that although the residents did not have the required burn permit, they were not ticketed.
"They were burning it on concrete, and one of the embers escaped and started the fire," Prentup said. "They're new to the area. They're renters, and we used the opportunity to educate them on permit requirements and the dangers of burning when the wind is blowing."
In addition to not burning in windy conditions, Prentup offered the following tips to help people avoid causing wildfires:
Always contact your local fire department to consult before burning;
Keep a means to extinguish the fire — a hose, sand and shovel — close by at all times;
Do not assume that recent wet conditions will prevent a wildfire.
Prentup said the size of the fire was limited by snow on the ground, but recent snow does not prevent the start of wildfires because grasses this time of year do not absorb moisture.
No structures were damaged in the fire, but Ann Lansing, whose home on Fifth Street is near the house where the burn took place, said the incident highlights several issues that have troubled her about fire regulations. Her family move to the area after their last home burned down in the Fourmile Fire, which started when an ember from a fire pit was reignited and spread by the wind.
Lansing said she feels fire pits should be banned from properties in the neighborhood because of the proximity to brush-laden open space, but several of the homes are on county land, and the county does not regulate fire pits. Also, she said some of the homes in the area are used as short-term vacation rentals, and those who stay there for brief periods often don't understand the wildfire risks.
"Burning slash in a residential neighborhood is insanity when it's this windy," Lansing said. "I mean, nobody who is even a long-term renter here would burn slash when it's windy out."
For more information about Boulder County burn permits, visit http://bit.ly/1oTHvd1.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.