Steamboat Springs There is only one way in and one way out for many of the people who venture close to the Hinman fire.
Seven and a half miles of rugged terrain lead firefighters and fire officials from Seedhouse Road to the south and west corners of the 1,950-acre fire, where hand crews are trying not to lose any of the containment lines they've worked so hard to keep.
The fire, 23 miles north of Steamboat Springs between the steep and heavily wooded Coulton Creek and Hinman drainages, is about 7 percent contained.
"It looks like we're holding the line today," division supervisor Ray Corral said Tuesday. "We just can't advance too far because we don't have the manpower."
Both personnel and equipment resources are still needed to effectively combat the fire.
About 250 personnel, including a Type II Incident Management Team from New Mexico, have been assigned to the fire.
But fire officials will not send crews farther into the fire without adequate numbers to back up their efforts.
"We don't want to put people in jeopardy," Corral said.
Only when firefighters secure an anchor could they begin to get around the fire and make some progress on containing the blaze, he said.
However, those efforts will take some time.
The southern end of the blaze is of utmost importance to fire officials, who want to prevent the fire from spreading any farther south to residential areas.
While the fire demonstrated more moderate activity Tuesday than some of its earlier erratic behavior, spot fires and smoldering timber kept crews busy through the evening.
Small flames on the ground and drifting plumes of smoke reminded crews their work on the fire was far from done.
"It's just playing with us now," Corral said.
Tuesday's overcast skies aided firefighters' efforts in retaining their containment lines.
Assistance from the air also helped crews stay on top of hot spots.
Crews called in a helicopter to drop water on several small flare-ups, division supervisor Paul Randall said.
Firefighters worked steadily to prevent future flare-ups by breaking up pieces of blackened trees with chain saws, allowing the timber to cool faster.
"It's a slow process," Randall said. "But it's got to be done."
Firefighters from Yampa, North Routt, West Routt and Steamboat Springs brought water from the Elk River along Seedhouse Road up the service road to fire crews working on the south and west corners of the fire while patrolling residential and commercial areas along the Seedhouse corridor.
About 170 structures are threatened, but no evacuations have been ordered.
Seedhouse Road is closed to all traffic except residents and firefighters. Area campgrounds and trails are also closed.
Fire information officer Karen Lightfoot stressed the structural protection crews were in place to monitor the area and are not intended to heighten residents' fears about the fire reaching their homes.
"It's not expected to be needed," she said. "It's strictly a precautionary measure at this point."
John Snyder and Patty Thompson are hanging on to that prospect.
Their home sits along Seedhouse Road, about a mile and a half from the fire.
Snyder, now retired, stays busy chopping wood he clears from neighbors' yards.
He doesn't pay much attention to the growing cloud of smoke above the treeline in the distance.
Thompson monitors the fire more closely.
She totes her binoculars to and from work in Craig to study the smoke.
When she comes home in the evening, she perches herself atop her observation rock and watches a helicopter lower itself below the treeline to fill its bucket with water from Hinman Lake.
She affectionately calls the chopper "Mike."
The slurry bomber that makes daily runs between the fire and Grand Junction has earned the name "Billy the Bomber."
Thompson never ventures far from her stony seat. She doesn't have a television, so Internet updates and her own observations are all the information she has to go on.
"It's become my hobby," she said. "It's a daytime soap as well as prime time."
The sky did not appear so menacing Tuesday evening as Thompson finished her nightly vigil.
She also takes comfort in knowing the firefighters are camped just down the road from her house.
"I feel better now," she said. "But it's still just one of those things where it seems like it happens to everybody else, until it's in your backyard."