Lightning likely culprit in two small forest fires

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— One small fire was still burning Tuesday while another was easily contained on Lynx Pass after a lightning storm Monday ignited the timber.

A lightning strike near Mount Elam Bible School burned about one-quarter of an acre of Forest Service land before fire crews suppressed the blaze.

Oak Creek, Yampa and U.S. Forest Service firefighters responded to the fire, which was reported at 4:29 p.m. Monday, Oak Creek Fire Chief Chuck Wisecup said.

Twenty-one firefighters and five pieces of equipment were called to the scene, but when the size of the fire was determined, Wisecup sent several of the firefighters home.

The fire was contained at 8 p.m.

The second fire was discovered Tuesday afternoon by Forest Service officials who were inspecting damage from the first fire by airplane.

The second fire is in the Sarvice Creek Wilderness area. Officials presumed that the fire was started by the same lightning storm that started the Lynx Pass fire Monday, Forest Service spokeswoman Denise Germann said.

Though size of that fire wasn't known, it appeared to have died out by the time the Forest Service conducted a second fly-over Tuesday.

Even though a lightning strike is a natural way for a fire to start, if Tuesday's fire had not died out, suppressing it would have been the only management choice for the Forest Service.

"If we had a fire-use plan in place, then we'd have other options," Germann said.

The only part of the Routt National Forest that has a fire management plan is in the Flat Tops Wilderness area in south Routt County.

There, if a fire is started naturally, then officials can choose to let it burn.

"Many times, that's the best management option," Germann said.

Letting the fire burn reduces vegetative fuel buildup that could lead to larger fires, helps forest regeneration and improves range conditions, she said.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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