Lightning ignites 3 wildfires in Moffat, Rio Blanco counties |

Lightning ignites 3 wildfires in Moffat, Rio Blanco counties

Lauren Blair/Craig Daily Press

Firefighting crews have battled three wildland fires under red flag conditions in Northwest Colorado since Friday, including two small fires in central Moffat County and a larger fire southwest of Meeker.

Winds have been strong on all three lightning-ignited fires, but as of 3 p.m. Sunday lines were holding. At that point, firefighters entered what is typically the most challenging time of day, particularly in red flag conditions.

Temple Fire, 65 acres

One Forest Service firefighter received second-degree burns on his legs while fighting the Temple Fire Saturday afternoon, a 65-acre fire two miles south of Juniper Hot Springs and 25 miles west of Craig, said Bureau of Land Management spokesperson David Boyd. He was transported to The Memorial Hospital in Craig by ambulance.

He was one of 40 firefighters working to secure the perimeter of the Temple Fire Saturday, which burned mostly sagebrush on BLM land and a small amount of private land and was 60-percent contained as of Sunday morning, Boyd said.

Fire crews reported that one structure sat within about a mile of the fire but was not immediately threatened.

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Hunter Fire, 637 acres

The Hunter Fire, about 20 miles southwest of Meeker, was reported Saturday and had burned 637 acres as of Sunday morning. More than 40 firefighters, five engines, four heavy air tankers, six single engine air tankers and a helicopter worked throughout the day to contain the fire, according to a BLM press release.

The fire may have been a hold-over from lightning strikes several days ago.

Smoke from the Hunter Fire could be seen from the Colorado River corridor all the way to Craig Saturday afternoon. Oil and gas infrastructure is in the area surrounding the fire, the release aid.

As of Sunday afternoon, the fire was about 40 percent contained, according to officials.

Cross Fire, 55 acres

The Cross Fire, which burned about 55 acres Friday in a rugged, remote section of the Cross Mountain Wilderness Study Area west of Craig, also on BLM land, is being monitored closely by a crew of eight firefighters.

As it is not threatening any structures, private property or other resources, the fire is being allowed to burn to create some natural clearing of pinon-juniper vegetation in the area, Boyd said.

The Cross Fire is about 60 percent contained as of Sunday afternoon.

Both the Temple and Cross fires in Moffat County were reported Friday and caused by lightning strikes.

The Craig area has the highest number of lightning strike fires in the state and one of the highest in the nation, Boyd said.

A red flag warning remains in effect in northwestern Colorado through Monday, according to the release, signifying weather conditions that can lead to large fire growth.

Crews from the Northwest Colorado Interagency Fire Management Unit and local cooperators responded to the fires. The BLM is investigating the circumstances of the burned firefighter’s injury and is not releasing further information at this time.