Sheriff seeking three men speeding from the area of latest Vail Valley wildland fire, as the fire started | SummitDaily.com

Sheriff seeking three men speeding from the area of latest Vail Valley wildland fire, as the fire started

Randy Wyrick / Vail Daily

The Booco fire north of Wolcott has grown to more than 415 acres since it was sparked near the Wolcott gun range mid-afternoon Saturday. The Sheriff's office is seeking three men seen speeding from the area as the fire was getting started. Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Office or Eagle County Crimestoppers, 970-328-TIPS.

WOLCOTT — A jeep adventure guide was taking clients toward Castle Peak when he saw shooters spark a wildfire that has now consumed more than hundreds of acres north of Wolcott.

Wolfgang Uberbacher owns and operates Mountain Wolf Jeep Adventures. He was taking a jeep load of clients toward Castle Peak and Blue Lake when he saw four cars and six to eight males firing.

One was using a semi-automatic rifle and firing past the targets into the dirt and trees beyond, he said.

Uberbacher first saw signs of smoke when he and his clients stopped at the top of Picture Ridge. He and his wife, Stephanie, alerted authorities.

From the time it was sparked midafternoon Saturday, June 9, that fire had grown to more than 415 acres by 9 p.m. Sunday, June 10, and was at 20 percent containment. Several agencies are working to suppress it, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said.

Uberbacher is up and down that road regularly with clients, and religiously stops to pick up trash that other people throw out along the road.

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A Sage Outdoor Adventures wrangler also spotted the fire minutes after it was sparked near that Wolcott shooting range, said Daryl Bangert with Sage Outdoor Adventures.

The woman also called 911.

“It’s the driest I’ve ever seen it. I’ve seen plants dead that I’ve never seen before,” said Bangert, who has been guiding in the Vail Valley since the 1970s. Everyone and everything at Sage is safe, he said.

SHERIFF SEEKING THREE WHITE MALES

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the fire started near the Wolcott gun range.

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office wants to speak with three males who they say were in the area of the Bocco fire when it was first sparked.

The three are identified as white males with long hair. They were driving a red and white truck.

A white sedan was also seen leaving the area at a high rate of speed around the same time. One of these males was wearing an orange shirt.

BLM AND PRIVATE LAND

The Bocco fire is burning on both BLM and sparsely populated private land.

Law enforcement authorities are regulating traffic along Highway 131 north out of Wolcott, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The Edwards Interfaith Chapel is open for evacuees, and the Eagle County Fair Grounds is available for large animals that need to be evacuated.

Homes in the Alkali Creek neighborhood have been evacuated. Approximately 37 structures are threatened to the north of the fire including homes, outbuildings and ranch infrastructure.

So far, there has been no reported structure loss or damage, the BLM said.

GETTING A JUMP ON THE FIRE

Ground and air crews were hard at work getting a jump on the fire within minutes of an initial smoke report Saturday afternoon.

Overnight Saturday to Sunday, hand crews held the fire to the west of Highway 131.

The fight continued Sunday, with the return of windy and dry conditions. Firefighters along with tankers and helicopters built firelines around the blaze to contain it.

However, single digit humidity and high winds could lead to rapid fire growth and extreme fire behavior. Firefighters will use existing roads, dozer lines, water drops and natural features wherever possible to limit future fire spread in the area, the BLM said.

“A great initial response from federal, state and local partners limited growth in important recreation and sage grouse habitat areas,” said Gloria Tibbetts, acting field manager of the BLM Colorado River Valley field office. “In the face of critical fire weather, we’ll continue to put firefighter and public safety first, engaging the fire where we can safely do so to stop its spread.”

Saturday’s initial responders included Eagle County, Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, Eagle River Fire Protection District, Gypsum Fire Protection District, Vail Fire Department, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

RED FLAG WARNING

The National Weather Service has issued a “red flag” fire weather warning for Sunday, June 10.

That means it’s a really, really good day to not burn anything. A combination of low humidity, stout winds and warm temperatures mean that any fire that sparks could get out of control quickly.

The most recent warning is one of several one-day warnings issued so far in this dry, warm, windy spring season. Despite those warnings, fire officials in Eagle County have yet to impose fire restrictions. That means campfires are allowed, and agricultural burning permits will be issued — although those permits aren’t valid on red flag days.

Smoke from the fire will spread to the east along the I-70 corridor, the BLM said.

For more information on smoke and air quality, go to: https://www.colorado.gov/airquality/colo_advisory.aspx.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.