Mad Creek fire battle continues today

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— The Mad Creek fire kept hot on Friday, but did not spread significantly.

However, winds forecasted for the area today could change that.

"A lot of work got done today and that's a good thing," Forest Service spokeswoman Punky Moore said Friday.

Fire crews used buckets of water in the rough terrain to control some of the flames on the south side of the fire, which is burning about 11 miles north of Steamboat Springs and five miles east of Moon Hill, she said.

Also, three Hot Shot firefighting crews, each with about 20 members, completed digging a fire line around the south side. A fourth Hot Shot crew will be called in today to help, Moore said.

Fire officials decided Friday to do a control burn on the north end of the fire to reinforce the fire line there. Crews will prep for that burn today, but it probably won't happen for a few more days.

A helicopter, wielding a device called a helitorch, will be used to start the fire instead of crews walking into the area.

Zone Fire Management Officer Cliff Hutton said using the helitorch and going in by air is the best way to do the work.

"It's just a lot easier to do from the air," he said.

The helitorch is essentially a 55-gallon drum carrying a flammable gel called Aluma. It is connected to the helicopter by a 100-foot-long cable and can be ignited by the button in the cockpit of the helicopter, Hutton said. The pilot drops the burning gel into the controlled-burn area.

Though the fire stayed quiet most of Friday, Moore said it could build again in the evening.

"The potential for it to pick up more is there," she said.

Plus, forecasts show wind hitting that area today, Moore added.

The Mad Creek fire originally started from a lightning strike and was spotted on July 9. It burned about 100 acres in a blowdown area near Swamp Park in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness. The blowdown was caused by a wind storm in 1997 that blew down thousands of acres of trees in a 30-by-five-mile area.

The fire was considered out by July 11. However, an undetected hot spot from the blaze remained, which was spotted Tuesday.

About 340 acres burned was the last estimate in the second flare up of the Mad Creek fire. In all 440 acres have burned in the Mad Creek fire since July 9.

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