Muddy Slide Fire now estimated at over 1K acres, prompts mandatory evacuation order
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10:35 p.m. to reflect the mandatory evacuation order Routt County issued at 10:17 p.m. compelling residents who live on Routt County Road 16 south of mile marker 12 to Colorado Highway 134.
STAGECOACH — The Muddy Slide Fire was very active on Tuesday, with the blaze building after about 2 p.m., causing some landowners to start moving livestock off their property along Routt County Road 16. The fire was estimated at over 1,000 acres on Tuesday evening.
Routt County issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents south of mile marker 12 on C.R. 16 down to Colorado Highway 134, late Tuesday night, stepping up the voluntary order that was in place earlier on Tuesday.
An evacuation center was established at Soroco High School for those who chose to evacuate Tuesday ahead of a potential mandatory order, which has not yet been given.
An estimated 10 to 15 homes were said to be impacted by the order, according to the Routt County Office of Emergency Management. Livestock can be taken to the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden, and pets can be taken to the Routt County Humane Society in Steamboat Springs.
The fire was estimated to be about 156 acres Monday night, but grew significantly to the southeast Tuesday, with flames passing over multiple peaks as it burned. Crowning, where the fire spreads through the canopy, could be seen from miles away.
Red flag warnings were put in place again Tuesday — the fourth day in a row — as winds were expected to gust up to 30 mph and humidity was in the single digits.
The fire started near the Muddy Slide Trail in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and is burning on the east side of the Gore Range about 6 miles east of Yampa.
About 80 people are working on the fire including two crews, eight engines, three type-one helicopters and one type-three helicopter. A team of Wyoming Hotshots also arrived Tuesday. There are three helicopters putting water on the fire, and there have been requests to get retardant drops, said Cass Cairns, public affairs officer with the Bureau of Land Management. Neither is meant to put the fire out but to slow it down.
Water has been taken from several ranches in the area to fight the fire. On Tuesday, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District granted permission for water to be used from Stagecoach Reservoir.
A pyrocumulus cloud formed above the smoke plume coming out of the Muddy Slide Fire, which could be seen as far away as Hot Sulphur Springs in neighboring Grand County. Cairns said when a fire get really active it can form its own weather.
“Winds could shift and that type of thing,” Cairns said. “It just depends on how heavy the fuels are and the direction the fire is going. That right now (about 4:13 p.m.) is just showing that it is obviously extremely active.”
The fire was relatively calm Tuesday morning, but became more active beginning about 2 p.m. — which is the time of day firefighters say is prime for fire growth because of the heat of the day.
Emergency responders notified town of Oak Creek officials that the fire would likely interrupt electric service provided by one of the town’s electric power providers, according to David Torgler, town administrator and clerk. If this happens, Torgler said town staff would need to shut down electric service for up to 30 minutes to switch the electric load entirely over to the town’s other provider. No time for an outage was provided, but Oak Creek residents are advised to prepare for it to happen.
By late Tuesday evening, smoke began to settle and drain downslope toward populated areas. This will bring the possibility for periods of moderate to heavy smoke to Yampa and Toponas, through early Wednesday morning.
Tuesday marked, however, the first day that closures have been put in place due to the fire, with a portion of C.R. 16, from its intersection with Colo. 134 to mile marker 8, closed, though residents were still able to use the road.
The U.S. Forest Service also closed roads and trails in the Yampa Ranger District of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. Closures include the Morrison Divide Trail from the Lynx Pass trailhead north to the Lower Morrison Divide trailhead, Green Ridge Road from the national forest boundary north and Morrison Creek Road from Lynx Pass to the north.
Carla Anderson saw the smoke as she was returning to her home in Yampa and drove to where C.R. 16 is closed to get a better look at the fire and pray for her husband and two of her sons who are fighting the fire.
“I saw that it blew up and wanted to come down and say my prayers and make sure he is protecting my boys,” Anderson said.
County moves to Stage 2 fire restrictions
Routt County Board of Commissioners moved the county into Stage 2 fire restrictions, effective noon Wednesday, less than a week after Stage 1 restrictions were initially put in place. The city of Steamboat Springs quickly followed suit.
Under Stage 2 fire restrictions, all campfires or other open fires are prohibited. Even if someone has an approved permit for a fire, it would now need to be re-approved. Smoking is limited to in cars and buildings; and fireworks and other explosives are not allowed.
“We haven’t seen dry conditions like this in quite some time,” Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Chuck Cerasoli said. “It will take commitment from everyone to help spread the word on the Stage 2 fire restrictions.”
Live updates from throughout Tuesday’s fire activity can be found here.
Steamboat Pilot & Today Editor Lisa Schlichtman and Assistant Editor Bryce Martin contributed to this report.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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The Routt County Board of Commissioners is looking for feedback on updated boundaries to its districts, which need to be redrawn after the county grew by 1,320 people during the past decade.