Routt National Forest wildfires cost millions to fight | SteamboatToday.com

Routt National Forest wildfires cost millions to fight

The Silver Creek Fire burns behind the the Green Creek burn scar. (Photo by Matt Stensland)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The two large fires that burned over the summer in the Routt National Forest have cost millions of dollars to fight.

The lightning-caused Silver Creek Fire that was discovered July 19 southeast of Steamboat Springs has cost an estimated $28 million.

"This is not a final number," U.S. Forest Service spokesman Aaron Voos said.

The human-caused Ryan Fire discovered Sept. 15 near the Wyoming border has cost an estimated $8 million.

Air resources and the large jets used to drop retardant can quickly balloon the cost of fighting a fire.

At times, more than 500 firefighters worked at the Silver Creek Fire.

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Funds to cover the costs of fighting the fires will come from the Forest Service budget.

In 2015, the cost of suppressing fires took up more than half of the Forest Service's budget. According to a Forest Service report, the annual cost of fighting fire is predicted to increase to nearly $1.8 billion by 2025, which would be 67 percent of the Forest Service's budget.

There were 12 structures lost in the Ryan Fire in an area known as Jerry Park, including two cabins.

"That was when it made a really big run to the east," Voos said.

The U.S. Forest Service is still trying to figure out who built the campfire where the fire started.

Planes have done flyovers of both fires to measure heat.

"They've detected minimal heat, but there still is some heat some places," Voos said. "This very well could have been the season-ending storm for both of these fires."

There are about 20 people working at the Ryan Fire and about 10 people at the Silver Creek Fire.

"There are still engines patrolling the fires where they can," Voos said.

Most of the hoses and sprinklers that were set up to protect structures have been packed up.

The Ryan Fire is 70 percent contained and has burned 28,585 acres.

The Silver Creek Fire is 80 percent contained and has burned 20,120 acres.

Voos said it was remarkable that no structures were lost at Silver Creek.

The fire came very close to Latigo Ranch and the Old Park community.

Forest Service officials this week will evaluate the closure areas, and decide if they should be changed.

Fire restrictions have been rescinded for Routt County as well as the Routt National Forest.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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