Firefighters fully contain first 2 wildfires in Routt County this season; officials determine cause of Indian Run Fire
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Two wildfires that burned in Routt County earlier this week have reached full containment, according to officials.
The Indian Run Fire, the largest fire in the county this season, scorched 170 acres of private and Bureau of Land Management land near Pagoda Peak.
Lightning is believed to have caused the blaze, according to David “Mo” DeMorat, the county’s emergency operations director.
By Wednesday, firefighters had fully extinguished that blaze and the Mill Creek 2 Fire, which sparked Monday in a wooded area near Wolf Mountain. Lightning also is suspected to be the cause of that fire.
“We are in a patrol and monitor status right now (on both fires),” DeMorat said.
On Wednesday, he flew his department’s new infrared drone above the burned area of the Indian Run Fire to look for any smoldering embers, or hot spots, which could spark another fire even days after the flames have been extinguished.
Oak Creek Fire Protection District Chief Chuck Wisecup also has been monitoring the area. He saw one ember smoking in the middle of the burn scar Wednesday, but no new flames.
According to Wisecup, a crew of firefighters will continue to monitor the area once or twice each day during the hottest parts of the day when flames are most likely to spark again.
At the site of the Mill Creek 2 Fire, where a larger wildfire burned more than 480 acres in 2017, firefighters are conducting similar patrols. Monday’s blaze scorched about an acre of forest that has been the site of logging operations, according to DeMorat.
Trevor Guire, assistant fire chief for the West Routt Fire Protection District, served as incident commander until Tuesday as firefighters extinguished the flames.
“It went as well as possible,” he said of their suppression efforts.
A logging crew assisted firefighters with their work, lending some heavy machinery to battle the blaze.
By Tuesday evening, they had contained 95% of the fire, according to Guire.
As of Thursday, firefighters had switched to, as Guire put it, “babysitting the fire,” checking for hot spots and dousing any smoking embers with water.
Wisecup said this, typically, is the time of year when conditions get hotter and the risk of fire rises. He added this fire season has been much easier on firefighters compared to last summer, one of the worst and most expensive seasons on record.
A heavy winter snowpack and frequent spring storms have helped to keep the area relatively moist. But as vegetation dries, officials anticipate more fires in the coming weeks and months.
“This was normal, even with the wet winter we had,” Wisecup said of the Indian Run Fire.
In preparation for more blazes, fire departments are putting rigs back in service and ensuring crews are well-rested, according to Guire. Suppression work can be physically grueling at times, requiring shifts of 16 hours or more at a time in extreme heat.
“The biggest thing we bring up at briefings in the morning is hydrate, hydrate, hydrate,” Wisecup said.
To stay up to date on emergencies in the area, such as wildfires, DeMorat encourages the public to sign up for the county’s Alert Center online. People can receive notifications of hazards, closures and evacuations via text or email.
He also advises people to be vigilant about fire safety while camping or around open flames. People also should contact the county’s emergency management office or the U.S. Forest Service to check about any fire restrictions before making a campfire.
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