100-acre Pearl Fire close to contained


— More than 160 firefighters battled four blazes on local public lands over the weekend, a reminder that even though the nights are cooler, fire danger remains high during September.
Three of the weekend's fires were on U.S. Forest Service land in Routt County; the fourth was on Bureau of Land Management land in Moffat County.
The largest of the fires was the Pearl Fire, just south of Pearl Lake in north Routt County.
That fire, which crews have been battling since it was reported Friday, grew to 100 acres over the weekend. As of Sunday night, it was 75 percent contained and full containment was expected some time today, Forest Service spokeswoman Denise Germann said.
However, because the Pearl Fire is burning in old slash material left over after a logging operation it is generating a lot of smoke, and smoke will likely be visible through midweek even if the fire is totally contained today, Germann said.
Another fire, the Oak Creek Fire, was spotted Saturday morning by crews battling the Pearl Fire. Despite its name, it was not located in south Routt County, but instead is roughly 3 miles south of the Pearl Fire, in north Routt. The fire was less than a half-acre and was contained Sunday, Germann said.
A third fire on the Routt National Forest was in the southern Yampa Ranger District, west of Pagoda Peak near the White River National Forest border. That fire, reported late Friday, was also a half-acre in size and was contained on Sunday, Germann said.
The fourth fire, being called the Sage Fire, was on BLM land northwest of Craig. The fire, which was reported Saturday roughly 7 miles southeast of Elk Springs, grew to 40 acres. It was contained on Sunday.
Although hunters have been out in force on public lands lately, the Forest Service believes Mother Nature was the most likely cause of all four fires.
"Most of them, we think, were lightning holdovers," Germann said. "We think the lightning hit them a week or so ago when it came through and they've been smoldering ever since, and not visible until this weekend."
Still, investigations will be performed to officially determine the cause of each of the four fires, she said.
Lightning from a front that moved through Sunday was also to blame for several new starts on public land, she said, but none have developed into fires.
The fires are a reminder that, although the weather is turning cooler, the wildland fire danger remains high, Germann said.
"It's September, and September is one of the biggest fire months," she said. "We're not out of the woods yet; it's still drier than normal."
Hunters and others using public land should remember that fire restrictions remain in place, which means that fires can only be started in developed campsites.
More than 160 BLM, state and national Forest Service firefighters, assisted by county fire departments, were involved in fighting the three Routt County fires.


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