Fighting fire was a community team effort

Extremely windy and dry conditions finally caught up to the region late last week.
Fires broke out all over last Friday, April 22, including one in central Yuma County south of Highway 34 that destroyed a family’s home while burning about 4,000 acres.
Friday, ironically which was “Earth Day,” was one of the windiest days of what has been an extremely-windy April, with gusts above 50 mph and a high temperature of 92 degrees, low humidity and a prolonged drought.
A toppled power line along Yuma County Road 33, near Road R, apparently started the fire, approximately around 4 p.m. or a bit later, and had numerous area fire departments, law enforcement, EMS and many other community volunteers scrambling until well into the evening.
One house was lost, but others were spared, and very few structures were damaged, thanks to the quick-acting and coordinated efforts of many. Most importantly, nobody was injured despite the extremely-dangerous conditions.
Highway 34 was closed at County Road M for several hours.
The strong and unpredictable winds were sending the flames in all sorts of directions, making it extremely difficult for firefighters and others.
However, as the quickly-moving blaze gusted north toward Highway 34, it ran into some irrigated circles of rye, which turned out to be a big help.
“We were lucky to have those green circles in front of it,” Yuma Fire Chief Ryan Hansen said.
The dispatchers at W-Y Combined Communications helped keep everyone informed, while firefighters from the Eckley, Yuma, Wray, Wages, Vernon, Joes, Wauneta, and Idalia volunteer departments fulfilled various roles during the blaze. The Yuma County Sheriff’s Office was directly involved, and the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control also sent out an engine from Hudson, Hansen said, adding that a member of that outfit, Taylor Triolo, now lives south of Yuma along the baseline.
Numerous farmers hooked up disks to help cut fire lines. Several local ag businesses, such as Helena Agri, CHS, Aurora Ag and Nutrien, were onsite with water trucks to help refill the fire trucks. Plus, other businesses and individuals provided drinking water and food for all those stuck out in the country in challenging conditions.
“We have great community support,” Hansen said.
There were staging areas throughout the fire zone, requiring a good amount of coordination.
The Yuma County Sheriff officially is the county’s fire marshall. Hansen said the firefighters had a lot of team effort with Sheriff Todd Combs. Hansen and Eckley Fire Chief Tyler Shell were coordinating with the various fire departments, but Hansen finally decided “to get out of a fire truck” and took over coordination while Shell and all the others could continue their firefighting work. He added that Triolo with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control was able to help him with command.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Office was working closely with the farmers, coordinating with them where they should cut fire lines with the disks.
While the wind, dirt and gunk continued to howl and swirl about, the fire was contained and knocked out by about 10 p.m., though many stayed on site throughout the night to make sure it did not flare up again.
Otis and Yuma firefighters quickly snuffed out a fire that started along Highway 34 between the two towns early in the afternoon. Plus, there were other fire calls throughout the region, including a significant one near Fleming, and another that resulted in the call for evacuating portions of Benkelman, Nebraska.
“We got four other calls while we were out there, including an accident,” Hansen said. “It was a busy night.”