Brush fires force early end to fireworks display
Hot, dry and breezy conditions were the culprits enabling brush around Quarry Mesa to catch fire from the fireworks fallout during the Town of Castle Rock’s Rockin’ the Fourth: Red, White &Boom! celebration.
About 20 minutes into the fireworks show, the Castle Rock Fire and Rescue Department halted the show after fallout ignited brush fires on the north side of the mesa. Many spectators at the celebration complained about the short show, not realizing that the show was stopped for their personal safety. The show simply couldn’t continue as protecting people and property are of paramount importance.
Four separate brush fires resulted in about three acres involved in the fire. There were no injuries and no structures were damaged by the blaze, and the fire was contained to the mesa and field just north of Haystack Road.
"We had pre-planned the event and located where the fires might occur,” said Fire Chief Art Morales. “We were fortunate in that we had staffed extra brush trucks, and had pre-staged them in the area along Haystack Road. The high temperatures of the day and single-digit relative humidity made conditions prime for a brush fire. Due to the heavy scrub oak on the north side of the mesa, we weren't able to access the fire until it crested the mesa. Attack efforts then commenced from the burned areas to the unburned.”
CRFD had five firefighters stationed at Rhyolite Regional Park on an ambulance and brush truck, while eight additional firefighters were staged on the area of Haystack Road, staffing an additional brush truck and fire engine. All available crews responded to the mesa, but the darkness and thick brush made reaching the fire challenging. The fires were under control by 3 a.m., but crews stayed overnight and Saturday to watch hotspots in case any reignite.
All Castle Rock fire resources were committed to these fires and an additional fire in Founders Village. With CRFD resources stretched, Larkspur Fire Protection District staged in Castle Rock to help respond should there be other fires. Between 4:30 and 10 p.m., CRFD responded to 10 brush fires in various areas of Town, most appearing to be caused by personal fireworks. Surrounding agencies also were committed to fires occurring in their respective jurisdictions.
"During the Fourth of July season, we always see an increase in brush fires, especially when conditions are as dry and hot as they are now,” Morales said. “For this reason, we ensure we are prepared through adequate staffing and careful planning. Even professional firework shows are susceptible to accidental fires that can be caused by low detonations and fireworks fallout that may be burning. The prevailing winds play a big part in where the fallout lands."
Quarry Mesa is part of Rhyolite Regional Park, 1701 Crystal Valley Parkway, which was the site of this year’s Rockin’ the Fourth celebration. The park opened in May. More than 5,000 people are estimated to have been in attendance July 4 at the park, while many others observed from Town and Lake Gulch Road.