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Computer modeling aids firefighters

The Silver Creek Fire remains at 30 acres.
courtesy photo

— Fire officials do not anticipate the Silver Creek fire to grow nearly as large as the Beaver Creek fire burning on the other side of the Continental Divide.

On Thursday, the Silver Creek fire south of Stagecoach was 30 acres after burning for six days. On Friday, it rained, and fire activity was minimal.

As of Friday, the Beaver Creek fire, which started June 19 in Jackson County, had burned 37,403 acres and was 53 percent contained.

“At Beaver Creek, it’s drier up there,” Colt Mortenson said. “They haven’t had nearly as much precipitation as they’ve had south of Stagecoach.”

Mortenson is the fire management officer for the Bureau of Land Management in Craig and is working on strategic planning at the Silver Creek fire.

The Silver Creek fire is in the Sarvis Creek Wilderness and is burning east, deeper into the wilderness.

The biggest concern has been the possibility of the wind shifting and pushing the fire westward down a ridge toward structures in the area of Routt County Road 16.

Based on historical data going back to 1984, Mortenson said the chances of the wind shifting and threatening structures are not good.

On Sunday, Mortenson entered factors such as the weather pattern, moisture and fuel types into computer modeling software.

He said the likelihood of the fire coming down the ridge and into the valley in a seven-day period was .2 percent.

Cooler weather and cloud cover has kept the fire fairly calm this week, and computer modeling is not an exact science.

Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears District Ranger Chad Stewart said that, on Sunday, computer modeling was calling for the fire to grow to around 110 acres in the first week.

Though firefighters have not directly attacked the fire, it has been tamed by shorter days as the end of summer approaches.

“The burn periods are getting shorter all the time,” Incident Commander Lathan Johnson said.

The weather is expected to be warmer next week, which could increase fire activity.

Mortenson said that, by the end of September or the beginning of October, there should be a rain or snow event that brings the 2016 wildfire season to a close in the Routt National Forest.

“This thing could go a couple thousand acres,” Mortenson said. “There is a chance of that, but I don’t think it’s going to go far.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland


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