Grass fire threatens historic schoolhouse
North Routt — A community project didn’t go the way a school group planned Wednesday, leading to a small grass fire that threatened the historic Moonhill Schoolhouse.
North Routt Fire Chief Peter Baillie said the two-acre fire came within 100 feet of the schoolhouse and also came within about 100 yards of a house above it.
About four north Routt homeschooled children, along with four adults, were cleaning the yard of the schoolhouse Wednesday morning as a public service project and encountered a fence in the ditch along County Road 129, Baillie said.
“The fence was down and tangled in grasses, so they thought the easiest way to get it out was to burn it,” Baillie said.
The small fire suddenly got out of their control when wind gusts of 15 to 20 mph spread sparks and embers to the dry grass next to the schoolhouse.
“It’s not that they weren’t paying attention; it’s that the wind is too hard to predict,” Baillie said. “Anytime after 11 a.m. on a warm day, you just know the wind is going to kick up from the southeast.”
Even though it snowed Monday, officials say Routt County is dry.
“People need to be more conscious of how dry it is when they start a fire. Don’t start a fire without adequate precautions,” Undersheriff Dan Taylor said.
Taylor said the school group had one hose and helped out on the fire line.
“They did an excellent effort helping us keeping the perimeter of the schoolhouse dampened,” Baillie added.
The fire came within 50 feet of a propane tank, but Baillie said the situation with a nearby house was more pressing.
“I was more worried about it jumping the road and reaching the house above it,” Baillie said.
Taylor said another house a few hundred yards up the hill was also in jeopardy if the fire hadn’t been contained.
The fire was reported at 11:45 a.m. and Baillie said it was contained in 30 minutes and out by 1:15 p.m. Three north Routt firefighters used one engine and one tender carrying water.
— To reach Michelle Bales call 871-4208 or e-mail email@example.com
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