Firefighters prepare for possible spread of new wildfire in Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area
Steamboat Springs — Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
Firefighters from places as far away as Lyons and Missouri arrived in the community of Stagecoach on Monday to keep tabs on a wildfire burning through beetle-killed trees in the Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area.
By Monday afternoon, the U.S. Forest Service had called in six fire engines and a reconnaissance helicopter to help ensure the lightning-caused fire does not move west toward ranches and homes southeast of Stagecoach.
The 8-acre fire is currently burning 4 miles southeast of Stagecoach Reservoir in beetle-killed trees near Simpson Mountain and the Silver Creek trail.
“You hope for the best, but you plan for the worst,” Lynn Barclay, public information officer for Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit, said as firefighters worked to finalize such details as establishing a heliport in a nearby hay meadow.
The type III fire management team was also working to decide where firefighters would set up camp in the coming days if the fire continues to grow.
“It’s like we’re building another small community here,” Barclay said
Firefighters could only watch the Silver Creek Fire on Monday, because, with the number of dead trees in the area, it would be too dangerous to get near the flames.
One firefighter described the area as a “sea of snags.”
Last week, a member of a hotshot crew fighting a wildfire in Nevada was killed when he was struck by a fallen tree.
As some firefighters set up a camera to monitor the new fire activity in South Routt County, others began taking stock of the four homes that are within 1 mile of the blaze.
They made a list of things that might be needed to protect the homes if the fire takes a turn down the slopes toward the private lands and structures.
Firefighters are also working to identify the places from which they can safely battle the fire.
U.S. Forest Service Spokesman Aaron Voos said it was expected Monday that if the fire did grow, it was more likely to head away from private land and structures and farther into the dead timber in the Sarvis Creek Wilderness.
But because there is still a chance the fire could back down a slope and go the opposite direction, the U.S. Forest Service has called in several firefighting resources.
The blaze was discovered Saturday by hunters who were scouting the area.
“It is on a steep slope in an area that has a lot of dead standing beetle-kill,” Voos said Monday. “We think it has some potential for growth.”
Barclay said the greatest influence on the fire will be the weather.
“This could go until the snow flies,” Barclay said, adding that the fire management team has been working closely with local firefighters on several logistical matters.
The fire is visible from several residences in Stagecoach.
Voos said it may appear strange that a type III incident response team has been called in to manage a small fire that is still confined to wilderness areas, but the fire’s proximity to private lands warranted the larger response.
“We want to make sure it doesn’t back into private land,” Voos said. “That is the primary reason we have called in a lot of resources to take on this thing.”
A community meeting to discuss the fire and its potential impacts is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Stagecoach Fire Department.
Barclay said the fire management team is also working to set up a site at which residents can watch video of the fire.
Officials were discussing Monday some possible closures of trails and recreational areas near the fire.
No closures had been announced Monday afternoon, but hikers were advised to avoid the Silver Creek Trail and any other areas near the fire.
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