Big Red Fire expected to burn through summer
The Big Red Fire has become the biggest fire Routt County has seen on U.S. Forest Service land since 2002.
While smoke made an appearance in the Yampa Valley, fire officials are hopeful there are no structures or other property in Big Red’s path.
By Tuesday, the lightning-caused fire had burned 529 acres of forest littered with dead trees.
District Ranger Chad Stewart said computer modeling predicts the fire will burn 2,000 acres.
“Since it’s already at 500, that makes me think it’s pretty low,” Stewart said.
The fire is not expected to be out until snow begins to accumulate.
Firefighters are trying to manage the fire north of Big Red Park so it does not approach a timber sale and private property to the south.
“It sounds like it’s going pretty good,” Stewart said. “As long as we get a little bit of westerly wind, we should be pretty good.”
There were 70 people working at the fire, and a helicopter was being used for reconnaissance. The chopper is also dropping some water in areas where firefighters are building fire lines.
Stewart said there is a good probability the fire will continue west and cross the Continental Divide into the Zirkel Wilderness.
“As long as it’s not super hot and putting all the nutrients up in the air, it would probably be pretty beneficial for the wilderness,” Stewart said.
While dry, warm weather is in the forecast, the relative humidity is forecast to rise.
“That should bring the fire behavior down in the next few days,” Stewart said.
It has been an active fire season in Routt County but not as active as 2002.
That year, 41,900 acres burned in the Routt National Forest. The Hinman and Burn Ridge fires in North Routt started in July 2002 and joined to form the Zirkel Complex, which burned 31,000 acres. The lightning-caused fires were not fully contained until October.
The Routt National Forest had a significant fire in summer 2016 on the other side of the Continental Divide in Jackson County.
It cost $30 million to manage that fire.
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Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1:25 p.m. to reflect the reopening of Hwy. 131.