Firefighters put out small blaze after lightning strikes tree at Steamboat Resort

This was one of 16 small fires starts in Northwest Colorado since July 17; Each is "contained"

A helicopter swoops in to use water from Muddy Pass Lake to fight the small Baker Peak Fire on the Grand County side of Rabbit Ears Pass on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Crews were in the "mop up" stage of battling the burn on Wednesday, July 20, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Holly Weik/Courtesy photo

Firefighters put out a small blaze on Mount Werner on Saturday, July 23, after a lightning strike hit a tree near Steamboat Resort’s gondola.

According to Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, the fire was reported just before 6 p.m. Saturday, as a series of thunderstorms passed over the Yampa Valley.

Deputy Fire Chief Travis Wilkinson said the fire was contained to the tree that was struck. A Bureau of Land Management engine assisted Steamboat firefighters on the call.

“We had our crews and the BLM crews hike in, and they cut the tree down, extinguished all the fire, and were able to contain it to a single tree,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson explained that the fire was near the gondola on the mountain, just above Ski Trail Lane, which is what led to it being named the Ski Trail Fire. The area was “moderately difficult” to access, which required firefighters to respond on foot.

The tree was burning in its midsection, where multiple branches were splitting off the main trunk, presumably where the lightning hit the tree. Once the tree was cut down, firefighters ensured the fire was completely out. Wilkinson said crews went back up Sunday, July 24, to ensure that nothing could flare back up again.

“It was completely cold and out, so (firefighters) are confident that it’s out at this point,” Wilkinson said.

The Yampa Valley has enjoyed a strong monsoonal push of moisture this year, which fire officials credit for reducing the risk of lightning strikes turning into larger fires.

Still, there have been multiple small fires in the last week, including one on the Grand County side of Rabbit Ears Pass that started July 18. But this fire, named the Baker Peak fire because of its proximity to Baker Mountain, never burned more than an acre and was being mopped up by crews last week.

A day earlier, the Serviceberry Fire started in northern Moffat County between a mountain known as Baker’s Peak and the Wyoming border. That fire burned 25 acres and was deemed contained on Saturday, according to Craig Interagency Dispatch Center.

The Serviceberry Fire is the largest of 16 fires that have started since July 17 within Craig Dispatch’s service area, which covers most of Routt, Jackson, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, as wells as western parts of Grand County.

Of these, 14 fires were snuffed out quickly, with each burning less than two-tenths of an acre. All 16 have been deemed contained.

Fire danger was considered high across Routt County on Monday and very high in Moffat County to the west of Craig, according to the dispatch center. None of the counties in Northwest Colorado have any additional fire restriction in place at this time.

“We’ve been fortunate with the amount of rain and monsoons we’ve had this year,” Wilkinson said. “(Fire danger) is entering the high zone now, and we expect, as August rolls in, the fire danger will continue to increase.”

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