Routt County firefighters working Black Forest Fire in Colorado Springs |

Routt County firefighters working Black Forest Fire in Colorado Springs

— As ideal fire weather caused the Black Forest Fire to blow up Wednesday afternoon, a contingent of Routt County firefighters was arriving in the Colorado Springs foothills to help.

Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said that at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, he got a call from Chuck Vale, the northwest field manager for the Colorado Office of Emergency Management. Vale was assembling a team to go down to the fire that by Wednesday already had burned 8,000 acres and an estimated 80 to 100 homes.

Struble contacted Routt County's fire chiefs Wednesday morning to see what resources were available.

"They're ordering a lot of air support, and a lot of resources are headed their way," Struble said.

The decision was made to send a Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Type 1 engine that is used to respond to structure fires. Staffing the engine are Steamboat firefighters Leighton White and Tony DeRisio and Oak Creek Chief Chuck Wisecup. North Routt sent Linas Vaitkus, a former ski racer who competed in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

On his way to the fire Wednesday morning, Wisecup said they most likely would be assigned to protect structures.

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Firefighting resources in the Northwest Colorado region also are being sent from Carbondale, Copper Mountain, Breckenridge and Pitkin County.

Struble said Steamboat Fire Rescue would be paid for the use of its engine by the state of Colorado along with the wages of the firefighters.

"It will be excellent experience for them to work on a large fire," Struble said.

Struble said the fire is burning in mostly ponderosa pine, but the firefighters will experience things they see in Routt County subdivisions, some of which are littered with beetle-killed lodgepole pine trees.

"It's very similar to what we have up here," Struble said. "There are a lot of homes and a lot of timber."

North Routt Chief Bob Reilley agreed working the fire would be a good experience for the local firefighters. He said they would learn how to prepare houses for a fire and how to fight the fires should the homes ignite.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email