Wildfire update: Firefighters battle 2 blazes in North Routt, 3rd extinguished | SteamboatToday.com

Wildfire update: Firefighters battle 2 blazes in North Routt, 3rd extinguished

A helicopter carries water to fight the Zirkel Fire in North Routt over the weekend. Two wildfires currently are burning in Routt County, both on U.S. Forest Service land.
Courtesy photo/City of Steamboat Springs

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article had an incorrect link to the Routt County Emergency Alert Program. The link has been corrected.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Federal firefighters are battling two relatively small wildfires burning in North Routt.

The Zirkel Fire, on the border of Routt and Jackson counties in the Zirkel Wilderness Area, has grown to just over 13 acres, according to Brandon Selk, the acting fire management officer for the U.S. Forest Service. The fire erupted Aug. 27, and crews are working to contain it. The flames are near the popular Continental Divide Trail, Selk said, but the trail remains open. 

To help with firefighting efforts, federal crews have been using two helicopters, which people might notice making stops at the Steamboat Springs Airport.

A smaller blaze, called the Mad Creek Fire, started on Saturday on the ridge above the Mad Creek Trail. As of Tuesday, it was about one-10th of an acre, according to Selk. The flames are far enough from the hiking trail as to not pose any danger to the public, he added. Crews should be able to extinguish that fire by Wednesday.

Lightning caused both fires, according to Selk. 

A third blaze, called the Dome Peak Fire, was extinguished Monday, two days after another lightning strike sparked it.

A brief series of storms brought some moisture to the county, but North Routt Fire Protection District Chief Mike Swinsick said the rain has done little to reduce the risk of fires. High winds dried what moisture the county did receive, the fire chief added. 

“We are still really dry. The only saving grace right now is the lower temperatures.” Swinsick said.

Routt County remains in Stage 2 fire restrictions amid the dry conditions. Under the ban, the following activities are prohibited:

  • All open fires and campfires except petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns and approved heating devices
  • Using explosive material (i.e.: fireworks, blasting caps or any incendiary device that could result in the ignition of flammable material)
  • Outdoor smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building
  • Welding or operating an acetylene or other similar torch with open flame
  • Operating or using a chainsaw and other internal combustion engine without a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order
  • Using tracer rounds or incendiary targets

Chief Swinsick said he has fielded several reports of illegal campfires in dispersed camping areas in North Routt. He anticipates more reports to come with the start of hunting season.

Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies have issued citations to multiple people who violated the fire ban.

“Be extra cautious and careful,” Swinsick advised the public. “Hopefully, we will have snow soon.”

For the first time in eight years, all of Colorado is suffering from drought or abnormally dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Wildfire preparedness tips
  1. Rake and remove pine needles and dry leaves 5 feet from the home as well as under decks, porches, sheds and play structures.
  2. Remove leaves and needles from roofs and gutters.
  3. Sweep porches and decks clear of any burnable plant material.
  4. Move firewood piles at least 30 feet from the house, preferably uphill.
  5. Transfer items under decks or porches to a storage area.
  6. Cover any exposed eave or attic vents with 1/8-inch metal mesh screening.
  7. Ensure home address signs are clearly visible from the street.
  8. Contact the Routt County Office of Emergency Management to register for emergency notifications and encourage your friends, family and neighbors to do the same.
  9. Confirm at least one alternate path out of your neighborhood other than the one most commonly used and be prepared for potential evacuation requiring the alternative route.
  10. Create an inventory of valuables in your home including written summaries, photography and video.

Sources: Colorado State Forest Service and National Fire Protection Association

The Colorado State Forest Service has a new, interactive wildfire risk application that shows which parts of the state face the greatest risk of burning. To see and use the application, visit coloradoforestatlas.org

With these unusually dry conditions, officials say it is more important than ever for people to prepare for a wildfire in their communities. This involves mitigating the risk of fires reaching one’s home, such as clearing yards of flammable material and reviewing insurance coverage to ensure property is protected in the event of a disaster.

The public also can sign up for the Routt County Emergency Alert Program online to receive notifications of hazards, closures and evacuations via text or email. To do so, visit RouttCountyAlerts.com.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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