NORTHWEST COLORADO NEWS FOR MONDAY, JUNE 17TH

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Rock Springs man dies in Flaming Gorge

The body of a Rock Springs man was recovered from Flaming Gorge Saturday afternoon.  Sweetwater County Sheriff Rich Haskell and County Coroner Dale Majhanovich said 24-year-old Michael Pond, 24, was on an outing at Flaming Gorge in the Big Firehole area on Saturday in the company of four friends.  The friends told investigating deputies and Sheriff’s Office detectives that they drove to a spot at the top of a series of high cliffs along the lakeshore, where Pond said he wished to make the jump into the water.  Pond’s friends said they tried unsuccessfully to talk him out of the leap and he jumped. Once he went under, they told officials, he never came up.  Authorities were notified around 2:30 PM. Deputies and other emergency responders, including the Sweetwater Boat Team and Sweetwater Dive Team, the Wyoming Game Fish Department, and the United States Forest Service, converged at the scene, located about 3 miles southwest of the bay at Big Firehole.  Sweetwater Dive Team members were able to recover Pond’s body at 8:51 PM in about 42 feet of water.  Investigators gauged the cliff’s height where Pond jumped at just under 175 feet.  An autopsy has been scheduled. Authorities said no signs of foul play are evident.  Saturday’s tragedy was not the first for the scene. In 1999, at virtually the identical spot, 19-year-old Kevin Corazza lost his life in much the same way as Pond.  “Cliff diving at Flaming Gorge is extremely dangerous,” said Haskell.  “People don’t realize how terrific the impact with the water is from that height and you don’t really know how deep the water is. Jumping in from any serious elevation above the surface is a bad idea.”   Pond’s is the third death on Flaming Gorge this year. In May, Danny Angelo Durante of Jackson perished when his small boat capsized in the Gorge just south of the Wyoming-Utah border and Mitch Hunt of Rock Springs drowned in Sage Creek Bay June 2. In yet another mishap on May 3, three young Utah men narrowly escaped death when their own small boat capsized in bad weather in the Anvil Draw area. The three were rescued by other boaters.  Photo courtesy of the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office.  Photo depicts the cliff from which Michael Pond jumped on Saturday; two of the boats involved in the recovery operation can be made out near its base.  Click to enlarge.

THOUSANDS ENJOY WHITTLE THE WOOD OVER THE WEEKEND

Vernal carver Ron Eye swept the awards categories at this weekend’s Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.  Eye took home the Carver’s Choice, People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice awards for his creation “Bosco”.  Bongo Love took 2nd in the Judge’s Choice category with “Bring It On”, and Faye Braaten placed 3rd with “Natural Fragrance”.  Saturday’s Whittle the Wood Rendezvous at Loudy Simpson Park was heavily attended, as was the Bear River Young Life and Colorado Cruisers Car show downtown.  Visitors to the park were also treated with live music from the Michael D. Band and Cracker.  You can see pictures of Saturday’s events in the photo gallery above.

 

FIRES IN DINOSAUR MONUMENT BEING MANAGED

Fire managers at Dinosaur National Monument are now conducting suppression actions on the Wild/Hacking fire on Wild Mountain. The current official estimate for the size of the fire is approximately 370 acres.  Originally, the Wild/Hacking fire began as two separate fires, the result of lightning strikes on Thursday, but had merged into one fire by Friday.  Located in a remote portion of the monument without any threat to structures, fire managers have decided to manage the blaze for natural benefits, including fuel reduction, returning nutrients to the soil and improving wildlife habitat and forage.  The fire remains within the Colorado portion of Dinosaur National Monument. Fire managers continue to work with the Bureau of Land Management and private property owners in the area on the management of the fire. There is no threat to either the Jones Hole or Harpers Corner areas of the monument even though visitors to those areas may encounter smoke.  The Canyon Overlook and Picnic Area along the Harpers Corner Road remain closed to the public for use as a helicopter landing spot. Fire managers also ask that pilots avoid the airspace around the fire in order to not create hazards for air operations.

 

WILDFIRE NEAR RIFLE SLOWING DOWN

A wildfire burning north of Rifle seems to be slowing down.  Lower temperatures and a little moisture helped lessen the intensity of the Ward Gulch Fire yesterday.  Fire spokesman Pat Thrasher said the fire, started Friday by a smoldering lightning strike, is now estimated to be burning on 485 acres. It’s 60 percent contained.  No houses are immediately threatened by the fire but the residents of 12 homes were ordered to leave, along with campers at Rifle Falls State Park, Rifle Mountain Park and the nearby White River National Forest.  The danger isn’t over yet though.  The National Weather Service says gusty winds and very warm weather will increase the fire danger in parts of western Colorado by midweek.

 

FIRE OFFICIALS WARN OF FIRE DANGER

With warm temperatures and windy conditions across northwest Colorado vegetation is drying out rapidly and fire danger is on the upswing. Caution with any outdoor fire use is necessary as fire ignition in fine vegetative fuels such as grass and shrubs will spread quickly. Always check weather reports for current weather conditions before you strike a match to start an outdoor fire. Do not burn or use spark inducing equipment on windy days.  The Fire Danger in Rio Blanco and Moffat Counties is Very High.  In Routt, Jackson and Grand Counties it’s high.  Your local, state and federal agencies and fire protection districts urge you to be fire safe and contact your local sheriff’s office to notify them of plans to burn outdoors. Monitor all fires and have someone present until the fires are cold and no longer smoldering to reduce the opportunity for the fire or embers to re-kindle the flames.

 

CRAIG MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO REDUCED SEXUAL ASSAULT CRIME

A Craig man originally charged with 2 counts of Sexual Assault on a child has pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual contact.  Daveth Young was tried on the original counts last month, but jury deliberations ended in a mistrial.  Instead of retrying the case, the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office decided to offer the plea agreement.  One of the big factors in the prosecutor’s decision was to avoid putting the victim back on the witness stand.  Young will be sentenced to probation for 5 years, and will be required to register as a sex offender for a minimum of 10 years.  Other terms and conditions of his sentence will be determined at his sentencing hearing September 6th.

 

COLORADO COUNTIES GET PILT PAYMENTS

55 Colorado counties have received over $31.6 million under the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. PILT provides federal payments to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal land within their boundaries. Payments compensate these communities for their support and foregoing the tax revenues from these federal lands. The payments are used to help rural communities provide critical services, such as police, fire protection, emergency response, and public education. The formula used to calculate payments is based on population, receipt sharing payments, and the amount of federal land within an affected county. This year Moffat County will get $554,633; Rio Blanco County will receive $497,194; and Routt County gets $1,468,688.

 

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