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With at least 19 large fires burning in nine states, President Barack Obama called Governor John Hickenlooper yesterday to assure him that the federal government stands ready to provide personnel, equipment and emergency grants for Colorado and other states battling fires. The now 68-square-mile High Park Fire west of Fort Collins shrouded downtown Denver in a smoky haze yesterday. The smoke temporarily grounded the air attack on the fire yesterday, but helicopters and tanker planes took to the skies again by midday yesterday. The fire is estimated to be 5% contained. As many as 800 firefighters are expected to be on the fire lines today with ten air tankers and 14 water dropping helicopters attacking the blaze. One death so far is being blamed on the blaze. Linda Steadman, 62, perished inside her mountain cabin. Her home had reportedly received two evacuation warnings that weren’t answered, and a firefighter tried to reach the cabin before fire overtook the site. Larimer County authorities allowed some residents to return home yesterday, but also issued 25 more evacuation notices to residents on the fire’s western flank.

District Judge Pattie Swift last week sentenced Rodney Northrip, 19, to 8 years in the Department of Corrections for his part in the murder of Norma Salazar of La Jara on August 22nd, 2010. Northrip had previously pled guilty to an amended count of reckless manslaughter, and to a count of accessory to a crime. His guilty plea was part of a plea bargain that was made with the district attorney’s office. In exchange for his guilty plea to those two charges, all other charges against Northrip were dropped. Northrip was originally charged with murder one after deliberation, murder one felony, accessory to a crime, burglary 2, felony menacing and violent crime causing the death of Salazar. Northrip also agreed not to post bond and to remain in the custody of the Conejos County Jail until a decision was made in the Tyrone Martinez case. Swift sentenced Northrip to 4 years on each count, to run consecutive to one another with three years mandatory parole. The court also ordered Northrip to pay restitution in the amount of $4,000 jointly and severally with Tyrone Martinez, plus interest at a rate of 12% per year.

A small grass fire ignited at about 11am near Arnold Lane south of Rye yesterday causing some Rye residents to be packed up and ready to evacuate, however, firefighters quickly gained control of the blaze and no one was ever evacuated. There were no injuries or damage to structures. According to the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, the fire burned about 100 square feet and was extinguished by 1:20pm. The fire got up into the trees, but Rye firefighters did not let it spread. The cause of the fire was unknown yesterday. Residents of southern Colorado are reminded that with the dry conditions in our area, any time they see smoke, they should be really diligent about calling authorities.

The Colorado State Patrol has issued a permit for movie filming to take over a 19-mile segment of Colorado 149 between South Fork and Creede next Monday, June 18th, through next Friday, June 22nd. On those days, motorists will face intermittent road closures of about 20 minutes each between 3pm and 8:30pm. Tourists hoping to venture up to Creede and the surrounding area next week should get an early start. While the state patrol couldn’t comment on what movie is being filmed on the highway, the permit was issued to Silver Bullet Productions, the same company that signed an agreement with the town of Creede to shoot “The Lone Ranger” in the canyon just north of town. The film, which stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, is expected to continue filming through the end of the month.

All access to Big Meadows Reservoir will be closed on Monday, June 25th, from 6am until noon while personnel from the Rio Grande National Forest conduct blasting operations. The lower parking area and boat ramp at Big Meadows Reservoir will continue to be closed from June 25th through the 28th while forest personnel replace the toilet and improve the parking area. Fishermen and trail users may use the upper parking area next to Big Meadows Campground beginning the afternoon of June 25th. Forest Service Road 430, which provides access to Show and Hunter’s lake, will be open throughout this time period. For more information, call the Divide Ranger District at 719-657-3321.