On Friday afternoon on June 16, Grand County dispatch was notified of a fire at the Confluence Energy plant located along Highway 9 just south of Kremmling.”
The Confluence Energy Plant currently mills pellets and was opened in 2008 by Mark Mathis. There is also a plant in Walden, CO.
Mathis has recently began a proposal for a plant in California, but does not plan to close Kremmling completely. Workers were at the plant on Thursday morning along with the owner Mathis, but only an office employee was there” when dispatch was notified of The he fire.”
Mathis is unsure of what started the fire, but said an investigator suggested a worker could have vacuumed up a hot ember in the shop vac while cleaning. Later the ember caught in the vac. The wood chip pile was the first to catch on fire and spread to a nearby tiger cat.
The Kremmling Fire Protection District responded initially, and with the threat of the fire being close to the Kremmling airport, the Kremmling Airport was closed. Two Single Engine Air Tankers were used during this time to spread retardant along the edges of the fire to keep it from spreading, but no suppressant was used. The fire crews also used a motor grader from Grand County to help build a fire line.
Also notable in the initial fire fighting was the coordinated effort with the Town of Kremmling. Upon hearing the news of the fire, Kremmling Public Works Director Jason Bock, immediately increased the production at the water plant to ensure there was adequate water for the Kremmling Fire Protection District to use from the hydrants without depleting the residential use.
After the fire was contained from the responding agencies, the work began for Mathis who was left with a smoldering wood chip pile, “I understand the civic and ethical responsibilities to put the fire out,” said Mathis who began the search for a contractor with tract machinery to start spreading the pile to gain access to the areas still smoldering. Mathis estimates the fire is roughly the equivalent of 388,000 camp fires that measures 14,400 cubic yards.
The Kremmling Fire Protection District, Grand County Road and Bridge and the Town of Kremmling found themselves with a lack of equipment to help Mathis with the smoldering embers. Mathis estimates the fire will cost him upwards of $120,000 to completely extinguish the fire. This is in addition to his current losses.
Over the past ten years, Kremmling Fire Protection District has responded to four fires at the pellet mill that were able to be extinguished fairly immediately.
Multiple agencies responded to the initial fire including: the Kremmling Fire Department, Hot Sulphur Fire Department, Grand Fire Department, Kremmling Police Department, Grand County Sheriff’s Office, Grand County EMS and Grand County Office of Emergency Management. Air support from Craig also assisted. Kremmling Chief of Police Scott Spade served as incident commander.
He states, “As a result of the fire at the Confluence Energy facility on Friday, the Kremmling Police Department initiated an investigation into the cause of that fire. Having voluntary consent from the facility ownership, the following entities conducted independent investigations. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and an investigator from the Aurora Fire Department. Each of these preliminary investigations have, at this time, determined that there was no intentional or criminal act that was the cause of the fire. These investigators will each submit their results at a later date.”