River user suspected of starting fire on Yampa River Wednesday
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Officials suspect a river user was to blame for a small wildfire that ignited Wednesday evening on private property along the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighters received a report of a fire at 5:26 p.m. near the Tree Haus Bridge, just west of the interchange of U.S. Highway 40 and Mount Werner Road. A passerby on the river spotted the smoke and reported it, according to Interim Fire Chief Chuck Cerasoli.
The flames started in a layer of dry grass under the surface of green vegetation near the riverbank, Cerasoli said. The fire grew to approximately 10,000 square yards, burning grass, shrubs and some trees. The flames grew to about 10 feet in height by the time firefighters arrived.
One engine and a brush truck brought a crew of eight firefighters to the scene, Cerasoli said. Steamboat Springs Police Department officers also responded. The fire crew was able to access a gate and a dirt road near the Tree Haus Bridge to take the brush truck near the fire. They pumped water directly from the Yampa River to douse the blaze, Cerasoli said.
“It was able to give us an endless supply of water,” he said.
Cerasoli applauded the swift work of the firefighters who were able to contain the blaze in less than an hour. They also cut and cleared some vegetation to prevent it from reigniting.
Asked about the cause of the fire, Cerasoli said it was likely a recreationist floating down the river.
“My first guess would be a tossed cigarette or something,” he surmised, though an investigation is ongoing.
He cautions people to be cognizant of increased fire risk in and around Steamboat. Though the grass and trees might look green, a sub-layer of dead vegetation could easily ignite and spread flames.
“We are right on the edge of being able to burn quickly,” Cerasoli said of fire danger in the area.
A red flag warning has been in effect since Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service, meaning that current conditions present a greater risk of fires.
Stage 1 fire restrictions are in effect for the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland. This includes National Forest System lands in Routt, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties in Northwest Colorado; as well as Albany, Campbell, Carbon, Converse, Crook, Natrona, Niobrara, Platte and Weston counties in Wyoming.
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