Monday, April 30, 2018

Stage 1 Fire Restrictions begin May 4th, 2018

MESA COUNTY, Colo - The Mesa County Sheriff, and the Fire Chiefs representing municipalities and fire protection districts of Mesa County are enacting Stage I Fire Restrictions effective at 12:01 a.m. Friday, May 4th, 2018. This applies to all of Mesa County with the EXCEPTION of federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service.

In 2012 and 2013, Colorado saw the most destructive wildfires in the state’s history. The severe to extreme drought conditions Mesa County is currently experiencing are worse than the drought conditions during 2012. The National Interagency Fire Center is predicting the significant wildland fire potential for the region to be above average for the first time since 2012.

“We are going into fire restrictions very early this year due to the extreme fire danger and ongoing drought conditions. I understand the impact this will have on many people's recreation plans for the coming months and we do not make this decision without careful consideration. The conditions we are experiencing are the most dangerous fire conditions we have had in recent memory and the potential for serious wildfire is staggering,” said Mesa County Sheriff Matt Lewis. “We want to ensure everyone has ample opportunity to understand these fire restrictions and adjust their plans accordingly.”

Already the community has experienced two destructive urban interface fires with the 12 acre Rosevale Fire and the 220 acre Skipper Island Fire. Both fires spread rapidly with dry brush and strong winds fueling the fires. Thousands experienced power outages and some people lost their home. These fire conditions are just going to get worse throughout the summer.

“These restrictions identify human behaviors that can easily start a fire in our current conditions. We've seen fires lately that start and spread out of control very rapidly. We need people to understand that their actions can impact our entire community, and to act responsibly when it comes to fire risks,” said Grand Junction Fire Chief Ken Watkins.

While federally managed lands are not currently enacting restrictions, severe drought conditions exist. The Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit asks the public to be extra cautious when recreating and target shooting in dry areas. Conditions are being monitored and fire restrictions are expected to be implemented as the drought persists.

What Stage I Fire Restrictions Mean

Fireworks are NOT allowed under Stage I Fire Restrictions. Professional fireworks shows may be allowed through the permitting process.
Campfires are ONLY allowed in designated fire pits or fire rings. 
Smoking in open areas is not allowed EXCEPT within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area of at least six feet diameter that is barren or cleared of all combustible material. 
While the restrictions do not impact most shooting sports, explosive targets are prohibited.
Stage I Fire Restrictions will end open burn season for Mesa County. The open burning of yard waste or fields is prohibited EXCEPT for agricultural burns with a Sheriff Issued Burn Permit. The Sheriff’s Fire Marshal will conduct an onsite inspection of each planned burn BEFORE a Permit is issued to ensure all safety precautions are met. If they are not met, and conditions do not allow for a safe burn, a permit will NOT be issued and any agricultural burn will be in violation of the fire restrictions in place.  
Causing or allowing a fire during fire restrictions can be a class 6 felony and can be punishable by fines up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment up to 18 months. Other possible charges include fourth degree arson and intentionally setting a wildfire. You may also be held financially responsible for damage caused.  
The use of fireworks, flares, or other incendiary devices, including exploding targets, are always prohibited on federal lands. 
Wood fires are never permitted anywhere on the Colorado National Monument.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Update: Skipper Island Fire Day 3

5:00 pm Final Update: The Skipper Island Fire is now 100% contained. Crews will continue to monitor the fire for flare ups over the next several days. I70 is currently closed in both directions to allow Xcel crews to repair power lines damaged by the fire. Check with CDOT for the latest information on road closures.

2:00 pm UPDATE: Significant progress has been made on the Skipper Island Fire. Total acreage is 220 acres. The fire area north of I-70 is 100% contained. The fire area south of I-70 is 70% contained.


Previous:

MESA COUNTY, Colo - The Skipper Island Fire is still actively burning south of I70 and north of the Colorado River. I70 was closed again Friday morning when winds flared up the fire again near the interstate. I70 is now back open as of 8:30 am.

The fire on the north side of I70 is 90% contained. The fire on the south side of I70 is 30% contained.

As of Thursday afternoon the fire burned 50 acres, it has grown since then. This morning crews are assessing the current acreage. We will post an update once one is available.

No structures or home are being threatened by the fire. NO evacuations are anticipated.

Many agencies have worked countless hours in very difficult conditions to contain this fire. Those agencies include the Mesa County Sheriff Wildland Fire Team, Lower Valley Fire District, BLM, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Grand Junction Fire Department, De Beque Fire Department, Palisade Fire Department, Clifton Fire Department, East Orchard Mesa Fire Department, Plateau Valley Fire Department, Xcel Energy, Grand Valley Power, Mesa County Sheriff's Office, Colorado State Patrol, Frutia Police Department, CDOT and other partner agencies.

Today winds are again expected to be a challenge for firefighters. Air drops from the Type I helicopter will resume at 9:00 am. Today crews from the Mesa County Sheriff Wildland Fire Team, Lower Valley Fire District, Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Grand Junction Fire Department, De Beque Fire Department, Palisade Fire Department are fighting the fire.

There is smoke in the area and will continue to be for sometime. It is advised to stay indoors and limit your outdoor activity, especially if you have respiratory issues. For a full list of recommendations from the Mesa County Department of Public Health click here.

Also thank you to the public for donations of food and water to the firefighters. We have plenty of food and water and are not seeking any more.

Please be aware, no fire agency associated with the Skipper Island Fire is soliciting donations for gift cards or money to help with this fire. If you see someone asking for gift cards or money, it could be a scam.

For the previous press release click here.

For photos, video and the latest information on the fire follow the Mesa County Sheriff's Office Facebook Page.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Skipper Island Fire now 12 acres

Skipper Island Fire Wednesday night
Update 1:00pm: The Skipper Island Fire is now 15-20 acres with 0% containment. No homes or structures are being threatened. View the MCSO Facebook page for more photos.




MESA COUNTY, Colo - Mesa County Sheriff’s Office was notified of a wildfire burning south of I-70 and north of the Colorado River near mile marker 18 around 7:00 pm Wednesday. The fire is burning in an area known as Skipper Island in the Horsethief Canyon State Wildlife Area.

Skipper Island Fire has burned 12 acres and is 0% contained.

Initial response included Lower Valley Fire Protection District, the Mesa County Sheriff Wildland Team and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Firefighters were pulled from the fire at 11:00 pm due to unsafe conditions caused by darkness.

Fire crews are continuing to suppress the wildfire today. The fire is very difficult to access burning in thick brush, tamarisk and trees. Winds are expected to pick up this afternoon. The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning from noon to 9:00pm tonight.

The agencies working the Skipper Island Fire Thursday include the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office Wildland Fire Team, Lower Valley Fire District, BLM, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Grand Junction Fire Department.

No homes are structures are threatened by the fire.

The fire is believed to have been caused by a campfire.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Grand Junction Woman wanted for eluding law enforcement

Elizabeth Tafoya, 42
MCSO Photo
MESA COUNTY, Colo – Elizabeth Tafoya, 42, is wanted for eluding law enforcement in the early morning hours Friday.

Just after midnight, a Mesa County Sheriff’s deputy observed Tafoya run through a stop sign in the area of North Avenue and Morning Glory Lane in a green 1993 Toyota passenger car. When the deputy attempted to pull her over, Tafoya took off at a high rate of speed on 29 Road.

A short time later, Tafoya’s vehicle was spotted driving recklessly near the intersection of Texas Avenue and Melody Lane by another deputy.  Tafoya again failed to yield to law enforcement.

Tafoya was observed several times driving recklessly by deputies in the area,  at one point driving down the wrong side of the road, and two times appearing to try to hit a patrol vehicle.

Colorado State Patrol assisted in locating Tafoya’s vehicle and pursued it into the 2900 block of Texas Avenue, where she drove through a chain link fence and continued south bound through the dirt lot north of the Memorial Gardens Cemetery. Tafoya vehicle did collide with a Colorado State Patrol Vehicle, Tafoya did not stop.

Tafoya is wanted for 2 counts of Felony Vehicular Eluding, Aggravated Driving with a revoked driver status, habitual traffic offender, 2 counts of Attempted Vehicular Assault, Disregarding a traffic control device, Failure to yield at a stop sign, Criminal Mischief, and Failure to remain at the scene of an accident.

Tafoya seen driving away
from law enforcement
Tafoya also has two active warrants from unrelated cases.    

Tafoya was last seen driving in a green 1993 Toyota passenger car  in the area of 28 Road and I-70 Business Loop.


If you see Tafoya or have information as her to whereabouts call 911 or you can call Mesa County Crime Stoppers at (970) 241- STOP. Information reported to Crime Stoppers that leads to an arrest can earn you up to $1,000 cash reward and you will remain completely anonymous.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Crime Stoppers: Crime of the Week


GRAND JUNCTION, Colo - The Grand Junction Police Department is requesting information that will lead to the identification of the suspect involved in criminal activity. 

Shortly after 2:40 p.m. on Wednesday, November 28, 2017, an unknown female entered Wells Fargo Bank located at 359 Main Street and withdrew $8,000 from an elderly victim’s bank account. A photo of the female can be viewed at www.241stop.com.

If you know the identity or whereabouts of the suspect involved in this crime, please contact Crime Stoppers at 241-7867. Information reported to Crime Stoppers that leads to an arrest can earn you up to $1,000 cash reward and you will remain completely anonymous. For more information, visit www.241stop.com. 

GJPD# 2018-9229

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Rosevale fire origin and cause determined

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo - The Mesa County Sheriff's Office Fire Marshal working with the Grand Junction Fire Department, has determined the origin and cause of the Rosevale Fire.

A person has come forward and claimed responsibility for starting the fire. Their account of what happened is consistent with eyewitness statements and evidence found at the origin of the fire.

The fire began at a property in Grand Junction city limits, on the 2500 block of D Road.  The person who claimed responsibility was trying to fix a flat tire on a riding lawnmower when tall grass ignited. The dry brush and winds quickly turned a spark into an out-of-control fire.

While neighbors called 911, the person responsible helped slow the progress of the fire until firefighters arrived.  The strong winds associated with Monday’s Red Flag warning pushed the fire rapidly to the east into the surrounding community forcing evacuations.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office will be referring the case to the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office to determine the appropriate charge. No arrests have been made at this time. The person's name will be released once charges are filed. 

Thank you to everyone who sent in photos and videos of the early stages of the Rosevale fire. We are no longer seeking any more information from the public about the fire.

The case remains active and under investigation. 


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Damage assessment from the Rosevale fire


Aerial view of Rosevale Fire
#Update:

The Rosevale fire burned across 7 properties in Grand Junction and unincorporated Mesa County totaling approximately 10 acres. It destroyed a manufactured double wide mobile home that multiple families called home. The fire also burned across a field with multiple vehicles. Several outbuildings were also destroyed.

The American Red Cross is currently assisting 7 displaced adults. 
GJFD photo of how close
the Rosevale Fire got to this home

The investigation into the origin and cause of the fire is ongoing.

Anyone with information, video or photographs related to the start of the fire is asked to contact the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office at Fireinfo@MesaCounty.us or call us at (970) 244-3919.

 
Map of Rosevale Fire

Rosevale Fire investigation

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo -The Mesa County Fire Marshal is working with the Grand Junction Fire Department to determine the cause and origin of the Rosevale Fire.

The Division of Fire Prevention and Control is assisting with mapping the fire and taking aerial photographs.  

Crews are still assessing the damage from the fire.  Multiple structures have burned, including at least one home.

Determining the cause and origin of the fire will take time.  The first reports of flames came into Grand Junction Regional Communication Center at 7:27 p.m. Monday.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information from the public about how and where this fire started. 


Anyone with information, video or photographs related to the start of the fire is asked to contact the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office at Fireinfo@MesaCounty.us or call us at (970) 244-3919. 

Monday night 363 homes were successfully evacuated through the emergency notification system. By following those evacuation recommendations we have no reported injuries at the time of this release.
Citizens wanting to receive evacuation notifications on their cell phones can register through the emergency notification system.