Fast response time helps South Routt responders put out wildland fire

South Routt firefighters worked together to quickly extinguish a small wildland fire east of Phippsburg on Thursday, July 21. 

The fire, located about a half mile east of Colorado State Highway 131 on Routt County Road 12, was reported at 2 p.m, but a crew with Oak Creek Fire Protection District was already on its way. 

“We were already heading to it before it came across dispatch,” said Tim Hohnbaum, a lieutenant with Oak Creek Fire Protection District. “We were probably on it in under two minutes. We saw it from 131 and (Routt County Road) 14. We were leaving Stagecoach heading into Oak Creek and saw it off to our left.”

Hohnbaum and his three crewmembers were the first to the flames, which were four to five feet in length and creeping up the hillside, burning through green sage brush and grass. He estimated the area to be about a half acre. 

Upon arrival, Hohnbaum initially suspected the fire started due to power lines or a transformer. 

Twenty-two firefighters responded to the call, including 20 from Oak Creek and two from the Yampa Fire Protection District. With many hands, the crew dug a line around the burn and put water on the flames, officially extinguishing it at 3:50 p.m. 

A crew will return on Friday, July 22, to ensure the wildland fire is completely out and doesn’t flare up.

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Hohnbaum said Yampa Valley Electric Association responders confirmed the fire started from nearby power lines.

“A bird or something may have flown into it,” Hohnbaum relayed from the YVEA crew. “It caught fire up on top of the pole and it dropped a wire onto the ground.”

A power line started a small wildland fire east of Phippsburg on Thursday, July 21, 2022. South Routt firefighters got the blaze out quickly.
Tim Hohnbaum/Oak Creek Fire Protection District

Recent and persisting high temperatures have caused drier conditions in the Yampa Valley and increased the probability of a spark igniting into a flame. Hohbaum suspects those odds will increase over the next week.

“It’s supposed to be pretty warm, so if you have an ignition, it could go, especially if it has a little bit of wind behind it,” he said. “(This fire) was burning in green shrub. I think people should definitely start to be more cautious.”

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