Three minor fires mar long holiday weekend

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— Steamboat Springs firefighters responded to two minor fires on the Fourth of July, and another Wednesday afternoon, the biggest commotion on what was otherwise a business-as-usual weekend for local law enforcement officers.

Fireworks caused a small grass fire at 805 Amethyst Drive around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. Charges were not pressed in that fire, Steamboat Springs Assistant Fire Chief Bob Struble said.

Wednesday afternoon, fireworks appeared to have started another small brush fire on the Yampa River Core Trail.

Firefighters were paged out around 5:20 p.m. to fight a blaze reported between the Island Tunnel and neighboring bridge on the core trail. The fire quickly burned several cottonwood trees on the river bank. Firefighters were delayed en route to the blaze by an afternoon coal train; they had to wait at the Fifth Street railroad crossing for the train to get through. The fire burned an area roughly 10 by 15 yards and was put out in about a half hour, Struble said.

Some small, aerial-type illegal fireworks were found close to where the fire started, Struble said. One witness said she say some children running away from the scene, so police expect to question several juveniles in connection with the fire, he said.

Besides the firework-related fires, firefighters also were called out at the end of the city's fireworks display, around 10 p.m., to a structure fire at 1530 Meadow Lane. The fire was caused by unattended candles, Struble said, and it was put out by a neighbor who heard the fire alarm going off. The fire was contained to a bedroom and there was more smoke on the scene than anything, Struble said. The owners of the home were there at the time of the fire.

Police and sheriff's deputies were out in force over the weekend, and made 21 drunken driving arrests.

"It was busy because there were a lot of people in town," Steamboat Springs Assistant Police Chief Art Fiebing said.

The Routt County Sheriff's Office reported approximately 16 drunken driving arrests over the four-day holiday; and the Steamboat Springs Police Department made five such arrests.

"I think over the last 'Heat is On' campaign we had seven (DUI arrests)." Fiebing said. "This year, we were above average, but not too bad. Some people just don't get it."

Officers and deputies also received their fair share of firework complaints.

"Most of the deputies were out really late and they definitely did get some firework complaints," Sheriff John Warner said.

Steamboat police had seven specific fireworks complaints and they issued one ticket for illegal firework usage. Firework citations can be difficult to make because by the time the officers respond to a complaint, the people usually are gone, Fiebing said.

Warner cautioned and the Wednesday fire demonstrated that even though the Fourth of July is over, the high fire danger remains. At about 10 a.m. Wednesday, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the Colorado area. The current dry, windy weather will further aggravate the potential for fire growth and it will contribute to high rates of strong fire behavior, the report stated.

"If you still have fireworks left over, please put them away," Warner said. "People start shooting them a week before and we still get complaints a week after."

To reach Larissa Keever call 871-4208 or email lkeever@amigo.net

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