Daniel Bolton was hauling a load of hay to his ranch on Powell Mesa Road outside of Hotchkiss when he looked in the mirror and saw 30-foot flames rolling off the back of his flatbed trailer. Glancing around, he saw nothing but cheat grass so he decided to continue up the road about a mile to his ranch. He figured the big parking lot would be a safer place to stop. So he continued up the road, with burning debris falling off his truck, hoping it wouldn't catch the whole countryside on fire.
When he drove into the yard, he hit the brakes on his semi so hard hay came raining down on top of the cab. "I couldn't see anything but flames," he said this week. He called the DCI to clarify a report in the July 4 law enforcement blotter which erroneously stated he did not possess a CDL license. Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee confirms that information was not correct; Bolton was properly licensed.
He was also thinking very clearly. He jumped out of the cab and unloaded his skid steer. When the fire spread to a nearby draw, he grabbed a broom and smothered the flames. His 86-year-old neighbor and his son showed up with fire extinguishers, and Hotchkiss firefighters finished the job, but not before the fire destroyed a portion of a neighbor's plastic fence.
"It was like driving a torch," Bolton said of the 20-foot flatbed full of hay behind him.
The semi and the flatbed are a total loss. "But at least I didn't burn my neighbors up," Bolton said. "The firefighters said it's a good thing I didn't park at the bottom, because I could have caught all the cheat grass on fire. With this weather that we have, it's pretty scary. "
Bolton said the cause of the fire is not known; he theorizes that carbon from the exhaust may have fallen onto the hay.
Last weekend, Bolton went from one extreme to another. Two weeks after the hay fire on June 29, his leased ranchland up Minnesota Creek was hit by heavy rainfall. The July 8 cloudburst brought rocks and water tumbling through the ranch.
"It's all in a farmer's day," he said.
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the Delta County Board of Commissioners called a special meeting to consider the board's response to the Bureau of Land Management's preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA) concerning the lease parcels proposed for the December BLM sale.
Several people from the North Fork were present to provide input.