Two separate grass fires sparked within minutes of each other on Sunday afternoon. Firefighters say they were both caused by lightning.
Lightning struck in Garden of the Gods Park around 4:30 p.m., sparking a small fir in a cedar tree and two bushes about 150 yards from Rampart Range Road. People in the park saw the lightning hit and called 911.
Park rangers rushed to the site and began kicking dirt on the fire to keep it under control while waiting for firefighters. Fire crews hiked to the location with backpacks full of water.
“By the time I got here there was a little bit of smoke. It was still burning, mostly smoldering,” said Battalion Chief Russ Renck.
The fire was only 10 feet by 10 feet. Crews were able to snuff it out quickly once on scene.
While firefighters worked at Garden of the Gods, another fire was ignited at Bear Creek Dog Park on the southwest side of the Springs. There are a handful of homes near the park; lightning hit a pole within a hundred yards of one of them.
"You could actually see the smoke and the flames,” Mike Bonicelli described.
Bonicelli was watching TV when he heard a knock on the door. A woman in the park spotted the flames. The fire was spreading quickly and she ran to his house to make sure he got out.
“She left the dog park, and was kind enough to come over here and alert us. So it was really, really nice of her,” said Bonicelli.
Renck says the same dry lightning storm caused both fires. His crews were able to get the flames out quickly, but he says that's because people happened to be nearby when both fires started and called about them right away. He says next time they may not be so lucky.
“It also worries us because there could be areas that aren't seen and aren't as accessible where a fire could have started and still be smoldering now, then kicked up by wind tomorrow and becomes more of a problem."
Firefighters say the dry lightning storms are very dangerous because they don't produce much rain. So when the lightning struck the brush, there was no rainfall to help extinguish it.
Officials say the usual reminders are good to think about this time of year. If you are outside when there is lightning, get to a safe place like an open area with no trees. Also if you are in a group be sure to separate and get low to the ground.
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