Crews battle 4 wildfires across Northwest Colorado, including new fire near Wyoming border | SteamboatToday.com

Crews battle 4 wildfires across Northwest Colorado, including new fire near Wyoming border

A plume of smoke from the Ryan Fire rises from behind a hillside. This photo was taken from Routt County Road 129 south of Hahns Peak Village.

Editor’s note: The story was updated at 5:45 p.m. to reflect that the Three Wash Fire in Moffat County was contained. 

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A seemingly constant drone of helicopters fighting wildfires hummed over the Yampa Valley this weekend.

Crews are now fighting four fires in Northwest Colorado. For fire and closure information, visit Inciweb.

Ryan Fire

The Ryan Fire was first reported Saturday night and is burning in more than 500 acres of live and beetle-killed lodgepole pine, said Routt National Forest spokesperson Aaron Voos.

The fire originated in the northern tip of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area but is growing rapidly and moving toward the Wyoming border. It has passed U.S. Forest Service Road 80, which runs parallel to the border and less than a mile from the state line.

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Fire staff and law enforcement are working to evacuate game management unit 161, which includes hunters and campers along the entirety of Forest Service Road 80 in Colorado.

In Wyoming, elk area 13 and deer area 81 are being evacuated. This includes the Hog Park area and the area south of Forest Road 496 from its intersection with Forest Road 550 east and north to its intersection with Forest Roads 409 and 404.

No homes have been evacuated. The fire is not immediately threatening structures.

The fire is growing quickly. Helicopters fighting the Ryan Fire were grounded Sunday afternoon in light of high winds.

"The winds are high enough that they haven’t been able to fly aerial resources," Voos said. "Ground crews aren't very effective with a rapidly moving fire in fuels like this. Even though we would like to, we’re not able to suppress the fire at this point, so right now what we’re doing is focusing on evacuations."

The Rocky Mountain Black Type 2 Incident Command team will soon take over incident command of the fire, Voos said.

"That says a lot, for a fire that was just reported last night," he said.

The fire was initially called the Nih Fire. It is burning about 6 miles from the Routt and Jackson County border.

Silver Creek Fire

The Silver Creek Fire was burning in 11,405 acres and 35 percent contained Sunday. This is about 800 acres larger than the area reported Saturday and the same containment level.

U.S. Highway 40 remained open Sunday. Colorado Highway 134 is closed from mile marker 17 to 27.

"I believe that things are looking better today than they have been as far as the possibility of a highway closure," Voos said. He added that fire activity — and smoke produced by the fire — decreased Sunday.

Latigo Guest Ranch, the Yost Ranch and homes in the Gore Lakes and Old Park areas have been evacuated. The Milk Creek State Wildlife Area has also been evacuated to get hunters out of the fire's projected path.

Pre-evacuation notices have been issued for Rabbit Ears Village, Bear Mountain and the Lake Agnes area.

Protecting structures in the areas evacuated was a priority for firefighters Sunday. A group working to protect structures was strategizing where to place sprinkler systems in the Lake Agnes and Latigo Ranch area. Firefighters were patrolling Latigo Ranch, the 100 Road and the U.S. 40 corridor from Tyler Mountain to Rabbit Ears Village.

Grand County residents were encouraged to enroll with the county's emergency alert system, so emergency managers could reach them quickly if evacuations become necessary.

Two hundred seventy-five firefighters battled the fire where it is safe to do so Sunday. The fire had priority for air support in the region. Two helicopters that can carry up to 700 gallons of water and fire suppressant and two helicopters that carry up to 100 gallons are supporting firefighters on the ground. Three air tankers also are available for use as appropriate.

According to Inciweb, the fire burned on the interior of the perimeter Saturday, with fire activity slowly backing northwest into the Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area.

Firefighters worked to clear grasses, brush and timber that could fuel flames along U.S. Forest Service Road 100, known as Buffalo Park Road. Bulldozers and two Hotshot crews created fire line in the area of the Muddy Creek Drainage.

Grand County graders worked Sunday to open up old roads west of the Albert Reservoir. Firefighters are also connecting meadows and already burned and blackened forest areas to create additional fire lines near the Red Dirt Reservoir to protect private property.

For more information on the fire and associated closures, contact the fire information line from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 307-840-9810.

Boone Draw and Three Wash fires

The Boone Draw Fire, the larger of two fires burning in western Moffat County, was reported at 8,683 acres and 40 percent containment Sunday.

The fire is burning sagebrush, grass, pinyon and juniper on private and Bureau of Land Management land north of Colorado Highway 318. The fire has closed Moffat County roads 46, 67 and 52. Colo. 318 remains open.

The fire is burning in the southwest portion of the Sand Wash Basin Wild Horse Herd Management Area. People can still view horses by accessing the basin to the north using Moffat County Road 75.

The fire threatens wild horse and greater sage grouse habitat and cultural resources.

Crews burnt out the southwestern flank of the fire Saturday, and they worked to contain the fire's northeastern flank by clearing heavy vegetation along the fire's edge.

The Three Wash Fire was reported contained at 369 acres at 2 p.m. Sunday.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter@elHasenbeck.