Breckenridge man cited after fireworks spark Dog Island fire
A 36-year-old Breckenridge man received two citations after a wildfire burned a campground at Dog Island in the McInnis Canyons Natural Conservation Area west of Grand Junction. The fire started on Aug. 16 and burned 50 acres, forcing several to evacuate the remote campground.
The large blaze started after the man set off fireworks while a fire ban was in place due to dry conditions, said Chris Joyner, Bureau of Land Management public affairs coordinator for the northwest district office.
“We got a call from someone on the river. It’s in a very remote area of the McInnis Canyons National Conservation area,” Joyner said. “It’s really frustrating because we made it very clear that it was a fire ban, then somebody does something like this and ruins it for everybody.”
Officials received the first call of the fire at 10 p.m. but were not able to reach the island until very early in the morning. They took a truck down a railroad that ran by the campsite and a sheriff officer’s boat to respond to the blaze. A helicopter also was used to extinguish the wildfire.
Seeing the flames approach, many campers opted to leave prior to the evacuation. Others slept in their boats. The rest were evacuated using the same railroad route the responders took.
“It was a pretty scary situation for the people down there,” Joyner said. “It was completely avoidable, too.”
He added that evacuation of the campsite, which was first open that year, was a long and difficult process due to the lack of road access.
“Any fire in that area is really difficult to fight because of that remote nature,” Joyner said. “All of those cottonwoods were burned … there’s very little shade on that river.”
Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman with the U.S. Department of Justice, said the man received two citations for igniting a fire other than a campfire on public land and for illegal possession, discharge or use of fireworks on public land. Both charges are misdemeanors, but the man will be required to appear in federal district court.
Joyner said that the man admitted to having set off the fireworks, prompting an investigation into the origin and cause that was completed a week after the fire.
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