Steamboat Springs The slightest shift in Marsha Sanford's makeshift weathervane causes her heart to jump just a beat.
Shifting winds have brought the Hinman fire closer to her house along Seedhouse Road.
Sanford lives one and-a-half miles from the fire, which grew to more than 1,600 acres Monday and is far from being contained.
From her porch, she can see the smoke billowing from the blaze located 23 miles north of Steamboat Springs between the steep and heavily wooded Coulton Creek and Hinman drainages.
To better gauge the direction of the wind, she tied two loose strips of plastic to a pole in her front yard Monday morning.
She intently follows the bearing of the strips, hoping they point anywhere but in the direction of her house.
They tell her what she doesn't want to know.
She and her husband, Bob Schappell, are prepared to leave if the call to evacuate comes.
They've put together a few items, including some pieces of furniture, to take with them.
The couple sees fewer faces drive by their house now. Seedhouse Road is closed to all traffic except for firefighters and residents.
No evacuations had been made Monday, but fire officials have an evacuation plan in place that gives them a two-hour window to get residents out of harm's way.
About 170 structures are threatened by the fire.
Local firefighters, assigned to protecting homes and businesses in North Routt County, have personally contacted every resident in the threatened area about the possibility of evacuation, and a meeting was held Sunday in Clark to allay some fears about the danger.
A Type II Incident Management Team from New Mexico assumed responsibility for the fire Monday morning, with four crews of 20 personnel each to battle the blaze.
Those numbers are not enough to effectively combat the fire, operations section chief Pat Pacheo said.
Ideally, at least 14 more crews should be assigned to the fire, he said.
"Right now, we just don't have enough resources."
The Hinman fire is the number two priority fire in the Rocky Mountain region.
Pacheo and fellow operations section chief Alan Beaty are hopeful their orders will be filled as soon as resources become available.
Officials are making do with the equipment and manpower at hand with a strategy to prevent the fire from spreading any further south to residential areas.
"We have focused all of our resources on the south end of the fire," Pacheo said.
But spotting has hindered those efforts, as burning embers cross containment lines and spark additional smaller fires.
"We're right here," Pacheo said, pointing to one side of an imaginary fire line, "and the fire just casts it right over there."
Ground efforts were aided from the air Monday by aircraft that dropped slurry and a helicopter that dropped water from a nearby lake on the north end of the fire.
Overhead drops are intended to slow down the fire at its north end until crews can be assigned to fight that section of the blaze, Beaty said.
Of lesser concern than the number of homes along the Seedhouse corridor is the 11,000-acre section of the 1997 blow-down, where dead trees sit ripe for fire.
"It's a concern in that it has a lot of heavy fuels," Beaty said.
Early estimates of an 800-acre fire were proven to be too conservative Monday, when precise computer mapping equipment put the fire at 1,675 acres.
"It's probably been bigger than they thought all along," fire information officer Ignacio Peralta said.
Fire officials would not speculate on the time it might take to contain the fire.
The team from New Mexico has been assigned to the fire for two weeks.
"Our intent is to do it as quickly as possible," Pacheo said.
In the meantime, local firefighters continue to haul water to hand crews working the Hinman fire and diligently patrol residential areas in the Seedhouse corridor, as well as residences in the vicinity of the Green Creek fire, a blaze south of Rabbit Ears Pass that grew to 600 acres Monday.
And the people who have the most to lose try to get on with living.
But it's hard to ignore the ominous veil of smoke on the horizon.
"You want to go do the dishes and you want to go vacuum the house and you want to fix dinner," Sanford said.
"But you don't, because all you can do is watch the fire."