Wednesday, August 2, 2000
Steamboat Springs Some Steamboat residents got a brief glimpse of what a wildfire in an urban area could look like when lightning sparked a highly visible blaze near Dakota Ridge Tuesday night.
The fire was spotted around 10:30 p.m. in the Agate Creek Preserve subdivision, south of Emerald Mountain, just after a storm swept through town, Steamboat Springs Fire Chief Bob Struble said.
Art Judson, who lives on Anglers Drive, east of the fire, was one of the first people to spot it.
"I glanced out to the south and saw this orange glow and I said, 'What is that," he said.
The fire was visible to most of the homes on the east side of U.S. 40 near the ski resort.
"It was pretty scary," Judson said. "If they didn't get on it quickly, who knows what would have happened."
Judson was one of at least 40 people who called authorities about the fire, said Julie Newman at the Routt County Dispatch office.
The fire burned in a 30-by-65-foot area in thick trees and brush, Struble said.
Firefighters worked on the blaze until 4:30 a.m., Wednesday.
"We wanted to spend a lot of time up there to make sure it was out," Struble said.
The fire flared up again at 10:30 a.m. and firefighters quickly snuffed it out, he said.
Fortunately, the part of subdivision where the fire started hasn't been developed yet, so no houses were in imminent danger of being destroyed by the flames.
Plus, the developer had already built the water holding tank in the area, which helped firefighters immensely.
"If we had to walk in and use the back packs, we would still be up there," Struble said.
When hoses can't reach a fire, the firefighters have to hike in with five-gallon tanks on their backs. Instead, firefighters used around 1,500 feet of hose to reach the flames.
However, the water system's pump was struck by lightning and wasn't functional. Because of that, firefighters parked the fire trucks below the subdivision's water tank and used gravity to fill the trucks' tanks. Then they used the trucks' pumps to the create the pressure needed to spray the fire, Struble said.
The weather also cooperated with firefighting efforts. The wind, which had been blowing earlier in the evening, died down before the fire started.
"If the wind would have come up last night, (the fire) would have been difficult to stop," Struble said.
That's another example of how dry the valley is, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Denise Germann said.
The Forest Service fought smaller blazes at Steamboat Ski Area and on Buffalo Pass around 5 p.m. Tuesday, she said.
Those fires were quickly contained, Germann said.
A recent test conducted by Forest Service at Dry Lake showed fuel-moisture content at 9 percent.
"That's a red flag to us. This is the lowest fuel-moisture content that we've seen in a long time," Germann said.
Plus, Dry Lake, despite its name, is one of the last places in the valley that will dry out because of its elevation. So moisture content at lower elevations could be even less, Germann said.
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