Charges pending against resident after 10-acre grass fire in Gunbarrel

Apr. 19—Boulder County has lifted all evacuations and road closures after crews were able to knock down a small grass fire in Gunbarrel, and officials said charges against a resident are pending.

The fire was reported at 1:12 p.m. Tuesday in a field south of Tally Ho Trail and ultimately grew to 10 acres, according to a release.

The Boulder County Sheriff's Office evacuated homes on Carter Trail east of the fire on a door-to-door basis, and also sent out a tweet advising any residents who felt they were in danger should also evacuate.

But the sheriff's office said no evacuation or pre-evacuation orders were sent out through the Everbridge system.

"Some door-to-door evacuation orders were given, but we did not need to launch Everbridge evacuation orders or warnings because, thankfully, firefighters were able to quickly make progress on knocking down the fire," the sheriff's office tweeted. "Therefore, we do not have a map of an evacuation area to post."

Just before 2:30 p.m., the Boulder County Sheriff's Office tweeted that firefighters were making "good progress" on the fire and at about 3:45 p.m. the sheriff's office lifted the evacuation orders.

They also reopened all roads, including Jay Road and Carter Trail.

The sheriff's office said there were no injuries or homes damaged.

The sheriff's office said the origin and cause of the fire were identified, but did not reveal specifics. Officials said a woman, who has not been publicly named but lives in the area, will face charges.

An investigation into the cost of the fire damage continues, but early estimates placed damage from the fire at up to $10,000.

Boulder County was under a red flag warning at the time of the fire, which prohibits burning.

Neighbors banded together

In the Red Fox Hills neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon, fire hoses snaked down Tally Ho Trail and the sound of sprinklers could be heard whisking across lawns. The sprinklers were one way neighbors tried to wet down potential fuel as the fire came within feet of their homes.

Twelve-year-old Ivy Villachica-Taylor was home watching TV on Tuesday afternoon, while her parents, Andy Taylor and Anna Villachica were at work.

"I heard a lot of sirens, but I just thought it was in the distance," she said.

But then the family's dogs, Rocky and Ginger, started barking. When Ivy looked outside, she saw the grass in the field directly behind their home was on fire.

Ivy immediately leashed the dogs and ran to the safety of the home of her neighbors, Heather and Bart Banks, who live about a block away on Bugle Court.

"Andy and Anna's daughter came to our house in a panic and said 'The back field's on fire,'" Bart Banks said Tuesday afternoon from his home. "I put a hat on, sunglasses and ran over there."

When Banks got to the family's home, he saw that their back shed was fully engulfed in flames. He hooked up a garden house and started spraying water on the blaze.

The conditions were hot and smoky, but Banks said what was on his mind was containing the flames.

"I wanted to make sure more than anything that the fire didn't spread to the house," Banks said. "The biggest concern was how fast it was spreading through the field. One change of wind direction could have meant disaster."

Roughly a dozen other neighbors jumped in to help stop the fire as it swallowed up a wooden fence boarding residential yards.

"It takes a village," Banks said. "Everyone was helping out."

Later Tuesday, Taylor and Villachica sat on their back porch looking out at the damage. The flames had reduced their shed to rubble, melted an internet box and destroyed a fence, but their home was safe. Taylor commended the "fantastic firefighters and neighbors" who came to the rescue.

Jaime Schlomberg, who was working from her home on Tally Ho Trail on Tuesday afternoon, said she was also grateful to firefighters and neighbors.

"The response was so quick, so amazing," Schlomberg said.

Schlomberg saw the smoke at the end of her street just around 1:15 p.m. She walked closer to assess the situation and saw and heard the flames roaring through the back field about 15 to 25 yards from where she was standing. Schlomberg began texting and calling her neighbors to alert them.

Schlomberg herself jumped in to help use a garden hose to spray water on the encroaching flames.

"That's what we had," Schlomberg said.

Erica Burch and her daughter Rani Hubbard, 10, stood on the Villachica-Taylor family's driveway to look out at the burned field.

Burch, who also lives on Tally Ho Trail, said she was outside in her backyard with her baby when she saw smoke and heard her neighbors screaming "Fire!" Looking out her front door, she saw the flames.

"It was definitely, definitely scary," Burch said.

Burch's daughter Rani, 10, said she was in class at Heatherwood Elementary School, just east of the Red Fox Hills neighborhood.

"We didn't know where it was," Rani said. "We saw the smoke from our school, because we were outside. We could smell smoke and everyone was like 'Is my house OK?'"

Some of her classmates were so scared, they started to cry, she said.

Her mom remarked on the recent frequency of fires.

"We're all just pretty shell shocked," Burch said. "It's like, just give us a break."

This is the fourth wildfire in the past four weeks to force evacuations in Boulder County following the NCAR, Carriage Hills and 37E fires. A small wildfire south of the NCAR Fire area also burned 0.6 acres but did not cause any evacuations, and three other small wildfires that did not cause evacuations sparked later Tuesday.

The Boulder County Sheriff's Office, Boulder County Open Space, Boulder Emergency Services, Boulder Fire-Rescue, Boulder Mountain Fire, Boulder Police Department, Boulder Rural Fire, Erie Police Department, Fourmile Fire, Hygiene Fire, Lafayette Fire Department, Lafayette Police Department, Lefthand Fire, Louisville Fire, and Mountain View Fire all responded to the fire.