Fire rages over Divide |

Fire rages over Divide

— Across the Continental Divide, the Beaver Creek Fire in the Routt National Forest continued to rage Wednesday and grew to 7,000 acres.

On Tuesday afternoon, the wind picked up, and the fire blew up, spreading to 3,400 acres. The wind helped fuel the fire again Wednesday.

The status of 30 privately owned cabins and other structures along Forest Service Road 600 was unknown Wednesday. The structures had been evacuated, and firefighters were going to check for damage Wednesday.

“We’re still not completely sure what happened through there,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Aaron Voos said.

On Wednesday night, about 40 residences were threatened.

The fire is one of the biggest that has occurred in the Routt National Forest in recent years.

“We’ve had a few smaller fires on the Routt, but nothing of this size in awhile,” Voos said Wednesday afternoon at the Forest Service office in Walden.

On Wednesday, fire engines from departments throughout Colorado arrived to help. A management team trained to handle large fires was going to take over command this morning. There were 120 people working the fire.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, evacuations became mandatory for areas in the path of the fire about 15 miles northwest of Walden.

The wind shifted late Tuesday afternoon and changed the direction of the fire from northeast to the east and southeast. This sent a running crown fire to the east across Forest Service Road 600 and Jackson County Road 6W.

The fire remains primarily on Forest Service land, but it did cross onto private land and Bureau of Land Management land. Independence Mountain, which is managed by the BLM, is among the closures. The fire is now well established on the mountain.

Other closures include Big Creek Lakes Recreation Area (including both upper and lower Big Creek Lake), Forest Road 600, east of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness boundary and south of Forest Road 681 and south of Forest Road 80.

A mixture of black and white smoke rose from the fire Wednesday. Voos said the white smoke was a good sign, because it meant the fire was not burning as much in the heavy timber.

The fire was ravaging through beetle-killed lodgepole pine trees left dead by the bark beetle epidemic.

Because of dangerous firefighting conditions, firefighters were focused on protecting structures and building containment lines away from the fire.

Helicopters and airplanes could be seen from the distance dropping water and retardant. Jackson County provided bulldozers to help build fire breaks.

The cause of the fire first reported Sunday is under investigation, and anyone with information about suspicious activity this past weekend in the Twisty Park area should call the Forest Service at 307-343-2335.

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