Muddy Slide Fire activity expected to be low through the weekend; containment at 28% |

Muddy Slide Fire activity expected to be low through the weekend; containment at 28%

Firefighters battling the Muddy Slide Fire make their way through a flock of sheep Thursday on Routt County Road 16. (Photo by John F. Russell)

Low fire activity is expected through the weekend on the Muddy Slide Fire, as containment has grown to 28% as of Thursday morning, but efforts are focused on preparing for when the fire becomes active again so crews can “fight it on our terms.”

“It is just creeping, smoldering that type of thing,” said Cass Cairns, spokesperson for the Muddy Slide Fire. “Very little flame if any. The large fuels, what they call 1,000 hour fuels, the big ones, they are still holding heat.”

Cairns said firefighters did find a hotspot on the north end of the fire Wednesday, but they were able to knock it down before it grew. More moisture is expected over the fire, which Cairns said is great, but when dry weather returns and humidity drops, fire activity will increase.

This has the focus geared toward creating various fire lines and other preparatory measures to ensure firefighters have the upper hand when activity does increase.

Though activity has been low, and smoke around the fire area is barely visible, the fire is still expected to be a long duration fire, and the current containment date is still estimated to be the end of July.

“They are setting things up so that if and when — more than likely when — things dry up and things start to move, they will have a defensible area,” Cairns said.

Crews have completed a fire line along Routt County Road 16 from Lost Elk Ranch down to Hideaway Ranch. Much of the containment of the fire is along C.R. 16 and on the west side of the fire, which has been designated Division Alpha.

“Essentially, Division Alpha, at this point, is all contained; it is more in a control status,” said Beau Kidd, planning operations section chief for the Muddy Slide Fire, in an update posted to Facebook on Thursday morning. “We still have firefighters up there, but they’re just looking around and making sure that nothing comes out of the interior of the fire.”

These fire lines and natural features are meant to prevent the fire from spotting, which is when embers blown beyond the fire perimeter spark up a fire. Sometimes, these lines will be built along existing trails or roads, and when the terrain is flat enough, they will try to use a bulldozer to build the line, Cairns said.

The fire has been estimated at 4,093 acres since Monday, after more accurate mapping Sunday lowered the previous estimate, according to InciWeb, a website that tracks fires across the United States.

Reed Buesser, who works as part of the camp crew, cleans out coolers at the Forward Operating Base at the Muddy Slide Fire in South Routt County. (Photo by John F. Russell)

The fire now has nearly 400 firefighters and support staff working on it, with people stationed both at the forward operating base near Stagecoach Reservoir and at Soroco High School in Oak Creek.

The increase in personnel comes from a request for surge crews to complete the fire lines. Three Hotshot crews will be working the fire over the next few days, constructing fire lines in addition to removing areas of heat near the perimeter.

In the shadows of the short-lived Stagecoach Ski Resort, there are multiple yurts, trucks, trailers, generators and other tools used to support those fighting the fire. Both AT&T and Verizon have brought cell phone boosters to the site to improve service, and Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue loaned a solar power station to help keep the lights on.

The meal crew has the capacity to feed up to 1,000 people per day if the fire required that many personnel. Firefighters are given three meals each day, two hot and one bag lunch that stacks up to about 4,000 calories per day, said Tamara Dierks, logistics section chief trainee for the fire.

“It is kind of fun to see the city build up,” Dierks said, referring to forward operating base. “And then, when we leave at the end of it, because all of this will go away, it’s kind of like, ‘Man, look what we built.’ The only way you would know is the smooshed grass.”

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