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Crews focus on control lines, structure protection planning for Middle Fork Fire

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Gusty winds are expected Tuesday afternoon as the Middle Fork Fire continues to burn downslope and upwind through fuels.

As of Tuesday, there has been no notable movement on the fire’s east perimeter, according to fire officials. Crews are focused on planning to protect structures and preparation of control lines. According to crews, clearing along trails, meadows, rocky area and light fuels offer the highest probability to contain the blaze.

It’s size has remain relatively unchanged since Monday, standing at about 6,187 acres.

No evacuation or pre-evacuation orders are in effect. To sign up for emergency notifications from Routt County, visit routtcountyalerts.com. The fire would first need to reach any pre-determined action point to trigger evacuation orders.

Visitors are reminded to avoid the area of U.S. Forest Service closures. The closure area follows the wilderness boundary on the east and west; on the south, it follows the wilderness boundary, the Continental Divide Trail and Newcomb Creek Trail; and on the north, it follows Lost Ranger Trail, the Continental Divide Trail south to Lost Ranger Peak, west to The Dome and down to the North Fork drainage.

The fire is burning in Routt National Forest in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, about 10 miles north of Steamboat Springs. It was first reported Sept. 6, and its cause has been attributed to lightning.

To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.

Letter: Please complete the 2020 Census

We’re zeroing in on the deadline for completing the 2020 Census. Like a passing comet, it won’t be back for another decade. If you have done so already, thank you.

For those still holding out, please take 10 minutes to complete the survey before the end of September. You can go to my2020census.gov to fill out information on who lives in your household. The census is safe and easy.

While your information is completely confidential, the collective data helps needed funds flow to our community. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads and other resources based on census data. 

That’s why it’s so imperative for all of us to complete the census. So, complete the 2020 Census for your family, your city and the entire Yampa Valley.

Jason Lacy
Steamboat Springs City Council president

Master Gardener: Gardening is an activity of hope

Ellyn Myller planted a productive stand of garlic in a hayfield near her new home in the county.
Courtesy photo

Here we are again at the end of summer. If you found this year to be challenging as a gardener, you are not alone.

A couple of frosts early on in my backyard, seed supplies not available, a dry hot summer and grasshoppers. Throw into the middle of all that a move to the county, and a season of gardening joy is almost lost. My summer mantra, “What have I got to lose?”

I was pleased to get some things planted in the beds I left in town. The onions looked like they were becoming some of the best I’ve ever grown. There were a few cuttings of lettuce before leaving; the carrots and cabbage looked hopeful too. 

On our way out the flower garden had several late blooming perennial surprises coming in that made me smile. I have to say though, there’s nothing like not seeing the harvest of your labor. This year’s gardening was one of those years that farmers over the ages have experienced, a bit of a loss. 

However, I have a new canvas of land to paint gardens on. Observation, a key principle of gardening, has been my consolation this summer. I have been able to watch what’s going on before digging in too much. 

I know I will have a new battle against bindweed to wage, along with its noxious cousin Canadian thistle. There’s a 10-degree morning temperature difference in this backyard than the one in town, which will require some planning for. The soil is good though, as the horseradish and catmint have tripled in size since planting them. 

But all I will be harvesting from my new digs this year is potato soup. It may turn out I only get French onion, if the potatoes yet to be harvested didn’t mature due to lack of consistent watering at the right time. Oh well, what did I have to lose?

It was about this time last year that I planted a stand of garlic in the middle of the hay field on our land. In August it actually gave me a good return. In a few weeks I will be planting next year’s garlic crop, and I am hopeful for another year of good gardening and grateful for whatever will come from it. 

Gardening is an activity full of hope. Let’s all be hopeful.

Ellyn Myller has lived in Steamboat Springs for 24 years. She loves a vegetable garden as much as flowers. She is looking forward to cultivating her new corner in Routt County.   

Routt County under air quality advisory due to wildfires

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — An air quality advisory has been issued for Routt County due to the Middle Fork Fire, burning about 10 miles north of Steamboat Springs.

The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment issued the air quality alert to go into effect at 9 a.m. Tuesday to 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Air quality is approaching levels where healthy adults may experience serious health effects from prolonged exposure of at least 24 hours, according to the state health department.

When moderate to heavy smoke is present, residents are asked to try to remain indoors if possible, especially if they have heart disease, respiratory illnesses, are very young or are elderly. If visibility is less than 5 miles due to smoke, air quality has reached unhealthy levels.

Winds will shift Tuesday afternoon and send smoke to the northeast, east and southeast of the fires. Westerly winds will then continue into the evening.

The Cameron Peak and Mullen fires are also contributing to the smoke.

Wild mustang trained in Routt County brings in highest bid at makover competition

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs 10-year-old Madison Ostrowski makes the trek out to Saddle Mountain Ranch every day to coddle her new horse Finnegan, a wild mustang she bought at a recent auction.

Considering the reputation of wild horses, one may wonder how a 10-year-old could handle such an animal.

“It’s not common, but I felt he had the right disposition and that they could work together very slowly,” said Samantha McKinley, Madison’s riding instructor.

Fortunately for McKinley and Madison, Finnegan was part of the 100-day Meeker Mustang Makeover competition.

Steamboat horsewoman Cosette McLaughlin was one of 15 trainers given 100 days to turn a mustang from “wild to mild.”

“Cosette did a phenomenal job with him,” said Briana Perkins of Saddle Mountain Ranch, who is continuing to help train Finnegan. “She (Cosette) never trained using fear. That’s why we’re seeing him as relaxed as he is. He wants to be with his people, and he wants to please.”

McLaughlin is currently attending the Colorado School of Mines.

McLaughlin’s horse Finnegan ended up bringing the highest bid of any of the 15 wild horses at the Meeker Mustang Makeover on Sept. 11. The 3-year-old bay sold for $4,500 to the Ostrowski family and will stay in Routt County where he was trained.

“I haven’t been riding him much,” said Madison, who said she has no fear of Finnegan, even though he was wild just four months ago. “I’ve been spending a lot of time with him, grooming him and walking him around. He’s super sweet and really pretty.”

Started by a group of Meeker citizens just one year ago, this year’s Mustang Makeover more than doubled in size, adding more horses and a youth division with yearlings. Thousands of dollars are given away in scholarship and prize money.

Adult competitor Hayleigh Aurin had a hiccup with her wild mustang when her cremello colored horse unexpectedly gave birth to a baby. She kept the baby horse and named it Sage, then asked the judges to send her a new mustang to train. While other competitors had the full 100 days, she had 66 days to train a wild blue roan gelding she named The Duke. Del’s Triangle Ranch in Clark ended up buying the roan.

Youth competitor and fifth-generation rancher Brittney Iacovetto ended up buying her yearling bay, Hank, to continue raising and training.

Leah Allen, another teenager with a little buckskin mare yearling, got the highest auction price for a yearling, $900. Her horse Cedar Rose is going to a family in Silt.

Hayden resident Wendy Lind trained a 3-year-old gray mare she called Mustang Sally.

“Although I have a lot of horse experience, I really appreciate that I was able to be a part of this as a non-professional trainer,” Lind said. “Being an architect and mom and wife, it often was late at night or early in the a.m. when I was able to work with Sally. Although I wasn’t always able to put as much time in on her as I would have liked, I really appreciate the fact that the competition is open to people that don’t make their living training horses or ranching and aren’t able to spend all day in the saddle. And my horse went to a great new home.”

Organizer and private rancher Deirdre Macnab said the event drew a remarkable 20,000 views on the auction site and attracted 67 buyers as compared to 27 bidders last year.

Professional mustang trainer Sam Rock from Brighton and her horse Sasha won first place in the adult saddle competition. Second place went to Rock’s student Dana Casey and her horse Stoney, and third place went to McLaughlin and Finnegan.

Madison is now patiently waiting until the day she can start jumping with her little wild mustang.

“She is so excited,” said Madison’s mom Michelle Ostrowski. “But horse trainer Brie Perkins has to teach Finnegan more skills, like pushing cattle, going over bridges and wading through water.”

Madison even had to train him on something else quite surprising.

“He didn’t really know what treats were and didn’t really like them,” Madison said. “He’s starting to get it and now really loves horse cookies.”

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Sheep on the loose: The Record for Sunday, Sept. 20

Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020

6:04 a.m. Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a report of theft in Phippsburg.

7:40 a.m. Steamboat Springs Police Department officers received a report of a dog at large in the 1600 block of Ranch Road.

8:37 a.m. Police were called about damage done to a car in the 2300 block of Abbey Court. Officers took a report.

9:37 a.m. Officers responded to a dog at large in the 2000 block of Indian Summer Drive. The owners of the dog were able to catch it.

9:54 a.m. Deputies, with officers assisting, responded to a fight at a restaurant in the 90 block of Moffat Avenue in Yampa.

10:12 a.m. Officers responded to a car that had hit a curb in the 1200 block of Bob Adams Drive. The driver was not injured.

12:46 p.m. Police were called about a sheep on the loose in the 2700 block of Burgess Creek Road. The owners of the sheep were contacted, and they were able to get the sheep safely home.

Crime Stoppers

If you have information about any unsolved crime, contact Routt County Crime Stoppers. You will remain anonymous and could earn a cash reward.

Submit a tip
• Call: 970-870-6226
• Click: TipSubmit.com
• Text: Send “NAMB” and your message to 274637

3:18 p.m. Deputies received a report of a suspicious incident in the 300 block of Honeysuckle Drive in Hayden.

7:32 p.m. Deputies received a wildlife call near mile marker 17 along Routt County Road 129 in Clark.

Total incidents: 50

  • Steamboat officers had 23 cases that included calls for service and officer-initiated incidents such as traffic stops.
  • Sheriff’s deputies had 17 cases that included calls for service and officer-initiated incidents such as traffic stops.
  • Steamboat firefighters responded to eight calls for service.
  • North Routt Fire Protection District firefighters responded to one call for service.
  • West Routt Fire Protection District firefighters responded to one call for service.

The Record offers a glimpse of police activity and is not a comprehensive report of all police activity. Calls such as domestic violence, sexual assaults and juvenile situations typically do not appear in The Record.

Hungry bears: Wildlife officials urge public to secure animal attractants ahead of hibernation

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Wildlife officials are urging Routt County residents to stay “bear aware” as the animals are on the prowl for food in preparation for hibernation.

This is the time of year bears enter a phase called “hyperphagia,” during which they spend up to 20 hours per day on the hunt for 20,000 or more daily calories, according to Randy Hampton, a spokesperson for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. 

“They are walking stomachs this time of year,” Hampton said. “They literally are trying to do nothing more than put on weight to survive five months in hibernation.”

CPW anticipates a spike in bear-related conflicts in the coming weeks as the animals scrounge for easy, calorie-packed meals in dumpsters and other human-sourced attractants.

After an increase in incidents last year, wildlife officers fortunately have seen a slight decrease statewide so far this year. CPW received 3,644 bear reports from April 1 through Aug. 31, down from 3,855 reports during the same timeframe last year. 

In Routt County, CPW has received 170 bear reports since April 1, down from 291 in 2019.

Part of the reason for the decrease, Hampton believes, is because of a relatively plentiful supply of natural food sources in the wild this summer, such as serviceberries, chokecherries and mountain apples.

Nevertheless, people should take steps to keep the animals away from neighborhoods. Being bear aware includes securing trash cans and dumpsters, removing bird feeders, closing garages, cleaning and locking doors on cars and houses. 

The city of Steamboat Springs passed an ordinance in May requiring residents and businesses to keep their trash in bear-resistant containers, bear-resistant dumpsters or within a bear-resistant enclosure.

“This is the time it is critically important people don’t become complacent just because it’s been a little quiet,” Hampton urged.

If people see bears become a nuisance, they should contact CPW, Hampton added. 

“A lot of people don’t call us for fear officers will kill bears. That’s just not true,” he said.

The earlier people report bears in neighborhoods, the higher the chances are officers can resolve the situation using non-lethal methods, such as hazing the animals away or relocating them from communities, Hampton added. If not, the bears continue to return for quick, easy meals.

“After two weeks of that, the bear is pretty habituated (to humans),” Hampton said, which also means the bears often become more aggressive. “At that point, we have fewer options.”

Officers prioritize public safety above all else, which means sometimes having to kill bears that threaten human lives. So far this year, wildlife officers in Routt County have relocated two bears and euthanized five, according to Hampton. 

To report a bear incident, call the local CPW office at 970-870-2197.

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

Middle Fork Fire reaches over 6K acres

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Warm temperatures, continued dry conditions and wind during the weekend caused the Middle Fork Fire to grow to 6,187 acres as of Monday.

The growth has mostly been along the fire’s western perimeter, according to the fire’s Type III incident team. It has been backing down the Middle Fork drainage and ridges to its north and south.

Three helicopters, including one Type 1 and two Type 3, have been working to keep the fire’s intensity in check when flare-ups occur. A fixed-wing aircraft is also helping to coordinate aerial operations.

Crews at the scene are employing a full-suppression strategy, which means firefighters will engage the fire when and where their efforts will have the highest probability for success, according to the incident team. A total of 96 personnel have been assigned to the fire.

Lighter fuels, meadows and rocky terrain have been identified to the west, northwest and south of the Middle Fork Fire, which will aid in the fire’s containment, according to incident managers.

With the onset of fall Tuesday, shorter days and cooler temperatures tend to calm fire behavior, according to fire officials. It’s also helped by days of higher humidity. But days of gusty winds can cause flare-ups and move around burning embers.

The incident management team expects the fire to burn until a persistent seasonal change of weather arrives.

Courtesy/U.S. Forest Service

No evacuation or pre-evacuation orders are in effect. To sign up for emergency notifications from Routt County, visit routtcountyalerts.com. The fire would first need to reach any pre-determined action point to trigger evacuation orders.

Visitors are reminded to avoid the area of U.S. Forest Service closures. The closure area follows the wilderness boundary on the east and west; on the south, it follows the wilderness boundary, the Continental Divide Trail and Newcomb Creek Trail; and on the north, it follows Lost Ranger Trail, the Continental Divide Trail south to Lost Ranger Peak, west to The Dome and down to the North Fork drainage.

The fire is burning in Routt National Forest in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, about 10 miles north of Steamboat Springs. It was first reported Sept. 6, and its cause has been attributed to lightning.

To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.

Letter: Barr, slavery and history

Apart from the preposterous comparisons of slavery and a public health mandate to wear masks, Attorney General William Barr shows an astonishing lack of knowledge of history.

Barr cites the requirement to wear masks as “the greatest infringement on civil rights since slavery.”

Alas, he seems unaware of the incarceration of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II and the essential confiscation of their homes and businesses.

I guess in the thinking of Barr/Trump that is not an infringement of civil liberties and the law.  

Sadly, it is much like their own behavior.

James DeFrancia
Steamboat Springs

Letter: Republican Party’s motto seems to be party first, country last

Many years ago, I was an independent who was a slightly left-leaning moderate and considered the views of both sides of the political spectrum.   While my moderate viewpoints have not changed much, the actions of the conservative right have moved further and further to the extreme right, making me look like I have done the same in the opposite direction. 

Watching the dismantling of all the safeguards that protect our air, water, food, voting rights, justice system, public lands, political process and economic fairness, I’ve come to the point where I can’t even consider a conservative candidate on the right.

The sad passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has brought the worst out in the Republican Party once again. While there are members of the party who go to church, are good parents and faithful to their spouses, their actions over the last four years and before show little moral principles and integrity to speak of. They say one thing to get elected, and their actions do the opposite. They are hypocritical and spineless, being led around by the present administration’s edicts.

  1. Afraid to impeach a guilty president in order to get reelected.

2. Against genuine health care for Americans for fear of a primary.

3. Let Mitch McConnell lead them around by the nose.

4. Didn’t allow a two-term president with 10 months left in his term to nominate a moderate U.S. Supreme Court Justice: “Let’s wait for the next election and let the people decide.” 

5. Seventeen active Republican Senators supported that policy in 2016. What will they do now?

6. Hypocritical because they will ignore that stand to nominate a Supreme Court Justice with only 45 days before the next election.

7. After three years of ignoring the suffering from hurricane impacts in Puerto Rico, they have decided to give them some relief funding since it’s an election year. Buying votes?

8. Defund the U.S. Postal Service to prevent absentee and mail-in ballots from arriving on time.

9. Gagging government employees from telling the truth and performing their job honestly.

The Republican Party’s motto seems to be party first, country last. When the Affordable Care Act was under attack by the Republican Party over the last 10 years, the American people have spoken out strongly to save it. We need to speak out again about Supreme Court nominations with calls and emails now and with our votes in this election.

John Spezia
Steamboat Springs