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Fast thinking at Gross Reservoir camping site

Small wildfire quickly extinguished thanks to efficient planning, cooperative response and ferry service.

It could have been a scary situation in mid-October when an unattended campfire in an illegal fire ring began to spread in the Winiger Ridge camping area at Gross Reservoir northwest of Denver.

However, thanks to fast action and coordination between Denver Water's on-site staff at its reservoir and local first responders, this campfire became a success story and not headline news of a disaster

Smoke from the campfire was first noticed around noon on Sunday, Oct. 17, by contractors performing work for Denver Water on the Gross Reservoir dam outlet works. The fire was located on U.S. Forest Service property close to the Gross Reservoir shoreline.

Smoke from the shore of Gross Reservoir
Fire from an unattended campfire in an illegal fire ring could be seen from a boat on Gross Reservoir. Photo credit: Denver Water.

The contractors promptly let Denver Water’s on-site staff and ranger know, and fire crews were quickly notified. Crews from Coal Creek Fire, Mountain View Fire and the Forest Service responded to the incident. 

In order to quickly get to the remote location, Denver Water on-site staff assisted with ferryboat services, taking gear and Coal Creek Fire crews across the reservoir from the Gross Reservoir boat house. While the boat went across the water, other fire crews arrived via road with Denver Water ranger Dominic Battista, who worked to notify nearby campers of the hazard and keep the public clear of firefighting operations.  

A firefighter rides a boat to fire at Gross Reservoir
A firefighter catches a boat ride with Denver Water to quickly get to a fire near Gross Reservoir. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Quick response and the use of a portable water pump deployed by Coal Creek Fire crews and Denver Water staff allowed the fire to be contained and extinguished without significant spread. In the end, the fire only burned about a half-acre of land. 

Previously, the radio group at Denver Water made programming modifications to help improve radio communications for emergencies at Gross Reservoir, since cellphone coverage is limited in this remote area. This planning clearly paid off. 

“Having good communications between the on-site caretaker, Denver Water rangers and fire crews via radio was instrumental in the seamless coordination of resources to quickly respond to this incident,” said Andy Skinner, hydro operations supervisor at Gross Dam.

Firefighters extinguish a fire near Gross Reservoir
Firefighters extinguish a fire in the Winiger Ridge camping area near Gross Reservoir. Photo credit: Denver Water.

The incident wrapped up that evening, as Forest Service crews stayed late working to douse the burn area with water, and to verify no hot spots were left to reignite. 

This also highlights the outstanding cooperation between local first responders and Denver Water staff at reservoirs to care for operations, people and watersheds. 

Denver Water depends on healthy forests and watersheds. Learn more about From Forests to Faucets, a watershed management partnership that helps mitigate wildfires.