It must be March in Delta County. Columns of smoke dot the landscape, a breeze carries an odor of burning, and the sound of sirens punctuates an otherwise peaceful day.
The burning of fields and ditches is considered essential to agricultural operations, and so it is allowed in rural areas of Delta County -- as long as the property owner first calls the burn line to ensure weather conditions are optimal. When the wind picks up, as it does many afternoons, a controlled burn soon becomes anything but.
When firefighters respond to an out-of-control burn, law enforcement is not far behind. In the case of a grass fire in North Delta on March 2, Officers Clint Swope, Cody Hammon and Nick Buffington were first on the scene. While his fellow officers contacted residents in the 800 block of 1550 Road, Officer Hammon grabbed a garden hose and began spraying the area behind a garage to keep the fire from reaching the structure.
The fire burned the grass around a nearby unoccupied home, then spread to a fence and a garage at 814 1550 Road. At this point, Officer Swope wrote in his report, the wind picked up and the fire moved north across the field and toward 824 1550 Road. After ensuring the safety of the resident of that home, officers again used a hose to spray the fire as it approached a shed.
When Delta firefighters arrived on the scene, the police officers continued to assist, unraveling a hose off the back of the fire truck and dragging it toward a field to the west that was now on fire and threatening a large wood pile and a structure. As more firefighters responded, the officers went back to speak with the property owners and begin their investigation.
It was determined Buddy Curtis was burning the ditch on his property around noon when the wind picked up and the fire spread. Once officers confirmed Curtis had called the burn line, and there were no red flag warnings, they decided charges were not warranted.
"Our officers did a fantastic job," said Delta Police Chief Luke Fedler. "Once they'd addressed public safety, they moved into firefighting mode."
Fedler said one resident suffered smoke inhalation and was transported to Delta County Memorial Hospital by ambulance.
Damage to fences, a garage and a shed totaled about $5,000.
The election results are in at the local, state and national level, and as expected, Democrats are doing well in state and national races. Colorado has elected Jared Polis as governor; nationally the Republicans appear to retain control of the Senate while Democrats now control the House of Representative.
With a ballot full of local and state measures, voter turnout in Delta County topped 71%, with 15,889 ballots cast. Statewide, voter turnout was just over 52%.
Of the three Delta County residents seeking state offices, Matt Soper won over Thea Chase in State Representative Dist. 54; Mike Mason lost to Julie McCluskie in State Representative Dist. 61; and Olen Lund lost to Kerry Donovan in State Senate Dist. 5.
Locally, in the City of Delta voters rejected a .5% sales tax increase to fund recreation, as well as recreational marijuana sales. The sale of medical marijuana and cultivation/manufacturing facilities was approved by a slim margin. Delta voters also gave the city the green light to move forward with selling or trading the Cottonwood and Riverbend Park, and to sell the old Municipal Light and Power Building.