Rainfall not enough to lift Routt County out of fire weather
September 24, 2018
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9 p.m. Monday to accurately reflect a quote from North Routt Fire Protection District Chief Mike Swinsick.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After Sunday evening's rain, sunny skies and cooler temperatures are forecasted for Steamboat Springs this week.
The moisture and cooler weather provided a very short morning of respite for firefighters battling wildfires in the area.
"This afternoon, it briefly improved the fire weather situation by wetting the fuels a little bit but also by increasing the relative humidity," said Chris Cuoco, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, on Monday. "That is going to drop fairly quickly, and things will dry out fairly fast over the course of the rest of the afternoon."
At a glance
Silver Creek Fire: 18,603 acres, 50 percent contained
Ryan Fire: 19,328 acres, no containment
Torso Creek Fire: under 2 acres, expected to be contained Monday
Most weather stations in the county received less than a tenth of an inch of rain. Isolated weather stations in the Steamboat and North Routt areas reported receiving between a quarter and four-tenths of an inch of rain.
"There was a fairly widespread very light rain and a few isolated areas of what we call wetting rain," Cuoco said. "Anything above a tenth of an inch is considered wetting rain."
Wetting rain raises the moisture content in the fuels that a wildfire burns. Light rains don't provide the same impact.
"This little brief shower — brief rain with a quick front — had a temporary effect on the fuels for today, but I think it’s going to come right back to very dry conditions tomorrow," Cuoco said.
Daytime temperatures are expected to reach highs in the upper 60s and low 70s until Friday. Lows are forecasted to hit freezing temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The low on Thursday is forecasted at 33 degrees.
The temperatures are there for snow, Cuoco said, but there are no storm systems moving into the area to produce precipitation.
Storms could move into the area as early as Sunday, but it is unclear if temperatures will remain low enough.
Snow started falling above 12,000 feet this week in the San Juan and central mountains, Cuoco said.
Silver Creek Fire
The Silver Creek Fire is 50 percent contained at 18,603 acres.
On Monday, 658 firefighters were fighting the fire. They are actively engaging the fire where it is safe to do so and implementing a full suppression strategy.
High winds are a concern for firefighters watching for deadly snags falling from weakened trees. Monday's weather forecast called for sustained winds of 20 to 25 miles per hour, the highest seen on the fire so far.
Firefighters are working to extinguish hot spots west of Forest Road 100 to the Green Creek Fire scar, using hoses prepared earlier in the week. They are also mopping up remaining hot spots in the Muddy Creek Drainage and west of the Albert Reservoir.
Patrols will continue to monitor Latigo Ranch and along Forest Road 100.
The fire continues to burn within its interior and is backing slowly into the Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area.
The public can expect to see lingering smoke along the U.S. Highway 40 corridor.
Pre-evacuation notices have been issued for Latigo Guest Ranch, Yost Ranch, Rabbit Ears Village, Bear Mountain, Old Park, Gore Lakes and the Lake Agnes area.
Torso Creek Fire
Crews expect to have the Torso Creek Fire near Meadon Peak in Routt National Forest contained by Monday afternoon.
The fire was last reported at less than 2 acres, and three helicopters made drops on the fire Sunday.
"They put a pretty good hurt on it yesterday afternoon," North Routt Fire Protection District Chief Mike Swinsick said Monday.
The Ryan Fire has grown to 19,328 acres with no estimated containment. A community meeting regarding the fire will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Grand Encampment Opera House in Encampment, Wyoming.
The Skyline community in Wyoming was evacuated Sunday. Firefighters spent the day establishing and implementing measures to protect structures should they be needed. A total of 233 firefighters are currently working on the fire.
A wetting rain fell on the fire Sunday night, which fire managers expected to moderate fire behavior Monday. Firefighters planned to take advantage of the lower fire behavior to minimize the fire's growth and begin establishing some containment.
Crews on the southern end of the fire will evaluate the need to establish structure protection in the Wyoming community of Pearl and will also monitor the existing structure protection at Hog Park Guard Station.
Communities as far away as Laramie and Cheyenne have reported smoke impacts from the Ryan Fire. A smoke monitor will be put in place to measure the air quality for those communities affected by smoke.
An area closure is in place in both the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests. For closure information, visit Inciweb at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6210/.