Fire breaks out north of town

Blaze not threatening any structures, private land

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— Fire crews mobilized Monday evening in an attempt to control a wilderness fire burning 11 miles north of Steamboat Springs.

Authorities plan to use natural barriers to control the 30-acre fire burning dead, downed timber just north of Swamp Park, said Rusty Ruszin, a fire information officer based at the Craig Interagency Dispatch Center.

"There is a rocky ridge, standing green timber and wet meadows that surround the fire," Ruszin said. "This is an absolute light tactic. This will have minimal impact on the wilderness."

Because the fire is burning in the wilderness, there are restrictions in place and officials hope the natural barriers will help control the fire.

The fire is burning eastward at a slow pace and is not threatening any structures or private lands, Ruszin said.

Because the fire is in the wilderness, fire crews cannot enter the area without the permission of the U.S. Forest Service.

Mechanized equipment, including chainsaws, is not allowed in the area.

Permission for helicopters to fly fire crews and equipment was needed to get to the area. Hot Shot crews from Roosevelt and from Wyoming and South Dakota, along with equipment, were being flown to the area Monday evening.

A helitack crew from Durango is flying the equipment and the men into the area.

Included in the containment plan is to have a helicopter dump water on the fire, Ruszin said.

"We will not be using fire retardant," he said.

Authorities have decided to let the fire burn and control it with the natural barriers instead of sending fire personnel into the fire.

"The fire is burning dead, downed timber fuel," Ruszin said. "It is very difficult to prevent that from burning."

The fire was reported just after midnight Monday morning and likely is the result of a lightning strike, Ruszin said.

Fire personnel gathered at Steamboat Springs Airport Monday afternoon as commanding staff mapped out a plan to fight the fire.

A second fire in Routt County near Stagecoach State Park was contained and put out Monday. The fire burned less than an acre, Ruszin said.

The two fires were among 14 that were reported in northwestern Colorado Monday.

Sunday's afternoon and evening thunderstorms were a mixed blessing. Heavy localized rain helped dampen three fires in the Greasewood Complex, which is near Rangely.

Fire officials were hopeful recent showers will allow firefighting resources to rest in anticipation of a dry period predicted for later this week. The short-term weather forecast calls for continued late-afternoon and evening thundershowers, which increases the potential for lightning-caused fires.

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