Firefighters battle pair of wildfires near Hayden over holiday weekend |

Firefighters battle pair of wildfires near Hayden over holiday weekend

Smoke rises from the Irwin Fire near Routt County Road 53 on Sunday afternoon. The fire threatened two structures. (Photo by Eleanor C. Hasenbeck)

HAYDEN — Firefighters worked to contain the Irwin Fire south of Hayden on Monday as officials expected to reach full containment on the Murphy Fire northwest of Hayden late Monday.

“It was a team effort,” Routt County Emergency Operations Director David “Mo” DeMorat said. All five fire protection districts in Routt County fought the fire along with firefighters from neighboring Craig Rural Fire Protection District and federal partners. “We appreciate all the help that we got from our partners.”

Irwin Fire

The Irwin Fire adjacent to Routt County Road 53 south of Hayden ignited Sunday in an area of mostly grass and sagebrush with some timber. DeMorat said Monday that the fire had burned about 170 acres on private land.

“Our focus was to get a good, wide dozer line around most of the fire tied in with the county road to get it contained,” DeMorat said. Firefighters then planned to burn back some vegetation inside the fire line to reduce the chance the fire will spread across the line.

Emergency alerts

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DeMorat said he did not have a containment estimate as of 11 a.m. Monday.

On Monday morning, firefighters were finishing cutting dozer lines and patrolling to put out hot spots. There were hot spots and visible smoke but no flames during the morning, though most fire activity takes place in the late afternoon as the weather warms.

One home was evacuated Sunday in connection to the Irwin Fire. DeMorat said residents were not allowed to return home Monday afternoon, but he anticipated they would be able to re-enter their home by the end of the day.

Air tankers were called in to protect the home and fight the most dangerous flank of the fire, DeMorat said. The tankers made 24 drops on the Irwin Fire.

“We think that we’ll get a good handle on it by the end of the day,” DeMorat said Monday.

Once the fire is more contained, investigators will work to determine the cause of the fire.

West Routt, Oak Creek, Yampa and Steamboat Area fire protection districts fought the fire. A crew on assignment with the U.S. Forest Service also battled the fire.

Routt County fire crews battle the Murphy Fire north of Hayden on Saturday.

Murphy Fire

The Murphy Fire northwest of Hayden was 90 percent contained at about 680 acres on Sunday night.

“We’re estimating it will be 100 percent contained by the end of the day today,” DeMorat said Monday. He said firefighters were patrolling the fire to extinguish hot spots.

The fire sparked Friday night after a lightning strike hit the Murphy Ranch near the rest stop on mile marker 101 on U.S. Highway 40.

All pre-evacuation notices for homes on Routt County roads 76, 76A and 78 were lifted Sunday.

Both fires required evacuations. As of Monday morning, both homes evacuated due to the fires were standing unscathed.

DeMorat said the necessary evacuations highlight the importance of receiving Routt County emergency alerts. Emergency alerts allow authorities to spend more time working through the logistics of fighting a fire and less time knocking on the doors of evacuated homes. Alerts can also give evacuees more time to gather belongings.

“If people aren’t registered, then we’re reliant on sending deputies that way,” he said. “Yesterday was a good example, where we had two fires going on, and we had people everywhere and trying to get someone to go door to door — it just takes a considerable amount of time. Residents are losing precious time if they want to gather valuables and stuff like that if they’re not aware.”

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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