J.D. TenNapel, 15, suffered second-degree burns last Friday as he drove an ATV through his family's rural neighborhood warning others of a wildland fire as flames around him rapidly spread and intensified.
J.D.'s injuries were the only ones sustained in the 39-acre blaze that blackened piñon/juniper woodland along Surface Creek Road between Timothy and T75 roads.
J.D. today is in a Shriners burn center hospital in Sacramento, Calif. (See related story below.)
The wildland fire broke out on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m., said Rob Fiedler, county emergency manager. One "large barn" was destroyed, Fiedler said.
All of the 35 to 45 homes that Fiedler estimates were evacuated in the fire area were saved. The 80 to 90 people evacuated from the area during the firefighting effort were allowed to return home at 9 p.m. Friday, said Kevin Walker, Cedaredge fire chief. Walker said the size of the fire was determined by walking the perimeter with a GPS device.
Fiedler said that fire units from Cedaredge, Delta, Hotchkiss, Olathe, and Paonia responded. Federal fire crews were also dispatched to the scene, along with law enforcement personnel from several agencies.
Also assisting was a unit from the Rifle Correctional Facility that worked on Saturday hunting and extinguishing possible hot spots.
Rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft operated by Olathe Spray Service joined the firefighting effort and played a key role in "knocking the fire out," Walker said.
At the home of John and Michelle Gillis on Ute Trail Road, some distance from the fire scene, a pond served as water supply for the Olathe helicopter. Michelle Gillis explained how the couple gathered with a few neighbors in the middle of their green, four-acre pasture to watch the helicopter pilot make his efficient, 2.5-minute round-trip runs to the fire and back.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation Tuesday and a determination was expected as the Delta County Indepedent (DCI) went to press. Walker said the fire is not believed to have started in the barn that was lost. "We believe the fire was burning for some time before it got to the barn," Walker said.
Firefighters battled swift, hot winds in low humidity and high temperatures that stoked the blaze through tinder dry woodlands.
Walker praised the determination, coordination, and skill of the responders who labored in the chaos of a wildland fire. "Everyone worked so well as a team," he said. "Everyone worked together, and it was just amazing to see the dedication of everyone."
James TenNapel, J.D.'s father, told the DCI, "Those firefighters were just absolutely determined that they were not going to let any houses burn. They set up their perimeters and did not give up."blog comments powered by Disqus