Saturday, August 17, 2002
Steamboat Springs A wildfire that destroyed a guest lodge and sent smoke more than 125 miles into Denver and other Front Range cities grew to 10,000 acres Saturday.
The five-week-old blaze, dubbed the Big Fish fire, was sparked by lightning July 8 but was being allowed to burn because it was in the remote Flat Tops Wilderness Area 34 miles southwest of Steamboat Springs.
It flared up Thursday, forcing evacuations, and by Friday had destroyed Trappers Lake Lodge, seven cabins and burned through Trappers Lake Campground. The area was evacuated, and no one was injured.
About 50 more structures, including 20 homes, were threatened Saturday evening, fire information officer Roger Condie said.
Two helicopters, 10 engines and 107 firefighters were battling the blaze.
''Fifteen-mile-an-hour winds, high temperatures and low humidity today have not helped,'' Condie said.
Firefighters were briefly moved off the lines Friday because of 30 mph winds.
A fire in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness northeast of Steamboat Springs grew to at least 8,000 acres. Condie said the fire was so smoky and active crews had trouble pinpointing its size.
The fire was burning among acres of trees toppled in a 1997 windstorm. No structures were threatened.
Authorities said the blaze, called the Burn Ridge fire, is expected to merge with the Hinman fire, which was contained last month but flared up again and scorched 9,000 acres by Saturday. Fire managers were referring to the two fires as the Mount Zirkel Complex.
Condie said the Hinman fire was spotting sending up sparks that were igniting new fires up to a mile away.
''We're concerned that it's spotted over the Continental Divide on the east side,'' he said.
No structures were threatened.
High winds fanned a 13,500-acre fire north of New Castle, generating heavy smoke as vegetation within containment lines caught fire. The blaze did not jump the lines.
In southwestern Colorado, a wildfire next to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad forced the closure of the tourist attraction. Fire officials were investigating the cause.