A huge grass fire that started in the Proctor, Colo., area Monday morning darkened the skies throughout the day, as high winds blowing smoke and dust reduced visibility. More than 70 firefighters responded from 13 area fire departments, with seven engines working through the night. Efforts to control the fire continued most of the day Tuesday. (Courtesy photo)
More than 30,000 acres burned in Colorado’s Logan, Phillips Counties
A large grass fire had the skies looking gray and local residents on high alert Monday. As of Tuesday, firefighters were still working to control the wildfire that has claimed several homes, outbuildings, livestock and over 30,000 acres.
A Tuesday noon report from the Logan County Office of Emergency Management noted that a red flag warning was to remain in effect until 5 p.m. with winds reported to be gusting from the northwest between 24-55 mph.
Haxtun schools closed at 11 a.m. and Holyoke schools at 12:35 p.m. Tuesday, when fire containment remained a concern.
A resolution signed by Logan County Commissioners Tuesday morning declared a local emergency, which turns the incident over to the state of Colorado for the purpose of assistance and funding.
High winds that persisted throughout Monday made the fire particularly dangerous and difficult to fight. Phillips County Alert warned of gusts reaching 60-70 mph, and wind was blowing in the 30-40 mph range most of the afternoon.
Phillips County Sheriff Rob Urbach, Logan County Sheriff Brett Powell and Matt Branch from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control held an 8 a.m. press conference Tuesday at the Haxtun Community Center. Urbach noted that the smoke was black, and at times Monday they had to wait for the wind to die down for a moment so they could move.
Monday, 70 firefighters from 13 fire departments responded from as far as the Front Range.
“You couldn’t see two feet in front of you, so you weren’t sure if you were in the smoke or at the fire,” Urbach said. “It was a hard situation, and the volunteer fire departments did a very great job.”
As the wind died down and temperatures dropped in the evening, the fire was 50 percent contained. Still, seven fire engines were out overnight, looking for hotspots and flare-ups.
Branch said the Tuesday strategy was to be mopping up the heat as much as possible, while the winds were lower. Eighty firefighters were expected to be on scene Tuesday.
Local farmers were, and continue to be, invaluable in the efforts to fight the wildfire. Those northwest of Holyoke were asked to turn on their irrigation pivots Monday, and many had their tractors out, discing to prevent further spread of the fire.
Tuesday morning, farmers remained available with discs to assist.
North of Haxtun, Pam Adams and Sara and Jared Firme lost their homes. In total, three homes in Logan County and one home in Phillips County have confirmed structure damage.
During this time of hardship, Sara Firme said, “Thank you for all of the support and the outpouring of love. Thank you to the firefighters who have worked around the clock to save our community.”
In the typical show of support seen in rural communities, countless individuals and businesses have pitched in to help where they can.
Pages on gofundme.com have been set up for the victims, where thousands of dollars have already been donated.
Logan County Fairgrounds provided temporary shelter for horses, sheep and goats, and cattle had shelter at the Sterling Livestock Commission. Individuals throughout Phillips and Logan Counties offered their homes and land to those needing to evacuate.
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