VIDEO: Historic North Routt barn burns |

VIDEO: Historic North Routt barn burns

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Arie Hoogendoorn looked dazed as he walked away from the falling timbers and smoking ashes of the historic barn he owned in North Routt County.

“I’m going back to my house to cry,” he said as he passed by.

Behind him, firefighters from North Routt Fire Protection District  and Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue doused the barn with water as flames continued to leap from the ashes. The iconic red barn, a longtime fixture of the Circle Bar Ranch, is a well-known landmark for those traveling from Steamboat Springs to Clark and Steamboat Lake along Routt County Road 129.

Video by Robert Roulette

Michael Swinsick, district chief for the North Routt Fire Protection District, said his crews were paged out about 8:40 a.m., and by 10:15 a.m., most of the barn had been reduced to a pile of ashes and twisted tin roofing by the fast-moving fire. The frame of the building still stood, but many of the bigger timbers that supported the structure began to collapse as the minutes passed.

“By the time the first engine arrived, the roof of the barn was fully engulfed, and it was starting to collapse,” Swinsick said.  “It went up like a rocket.”

North Routt called Steamboat Springs firefighters for an agency assist. Steamboat sent a truck, a tender and manpower to help battle the blaze.  Swinsick also called the West Routt Fire Protection District, and they had another tender on call, if needed. Crews on the scene were eventually able to tap into a nearby irrigation ditch eliminating the need for the tenders.

Several nearby structures — including an outbuilding, fuel tanks and a home — were threatened, but fire crews quickly got the blaze under control and were able to protect those structures.

There was nobody in the building at the time of the fire, and there were no reports of lost livestock. A firefighter received minor injuries to his foot after getting it caught in a ladder, according to Steamboat Fire Chief Mel Stewart.

Video by Jaelyn Kohl

The significance of the historic barn was not lost on Hoogendoorn, who is the latest in a long line of owners of the ranch. He leases the property to local ranchers Matt and Christy Belton, who run cattle and used the barn for horse tack and prepping horses for feeding on chilly winter mornings.

“I’ll never hear my work horses’ hooves on that 100-year-old, cottonwood floor, again,” Christy Belton in an email to Steamboat Pilot & Today. “It’s a much more profound loss than I would have imagined. It was such an iconic barn.”

Video by John F. Russell

Hoogendoorn first learned about the fire shortly after 9 a.m. Monday when he got a call from Matt Belton, who had been working ditches on the ranch.

“He said the barn is on fire,” Hoogendoorn said.

At first, Hoogendoorn didn’t believe what he was hearing. He had just been looking at the barn out the window of his home, which is also on C.R. 129. The driveway of his home and the ranch are within walking distance.

Hoogendoorn jumped into his car, but by the time he reached the barn, the flames were clearly visible, and smoke was pouring out. Belton and nearby neighbors had already alerted the fire department. Swinsick suspects that the fire was the result of electrical wiring but said an exact cause had not been determined.

The historic ranch, formerly owned by Ruth and Forrest Warren, was placed under a conservation easement in November 2000 using local property tax dollars to help close the deal.

“It’s a historic loss,” Hoogendoorn said. “It was minimally used, but it has historic value.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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