2 small fires start in county

Suspected causes: cigarette, lightning strike

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Two small wildland fires Tuesday, one in West Routt and the other in South Routt, sparked concerns about the county's fire danger.

Routt County Sheriff John Warner will hold a conference with officials today and then will determine whether fire restrictions will be instituted. The sheriff's office assisted in Tuesday's fires, one caused by a tossed cigarette and another by a lightning strike.

Tuesday's first fire started about 6 p.m. off of Highway 131 near the Red Dirt Trail. Susan Allen from the Yampa Fire Department said the fire was started when lightning hit a large cedar tree. It took three hours for the fire department to cut down the tree and put the fire out. The fire did not spread to other trees.

At 7:41 p.m. Tuesday, a fire started west of Hayden along U.S. Highway 40 at the east entrance of Meadow Village Trailer Court. West Routt Fire Chief Bryan Rickman said the suspected cause of the fire was an improperly disposed cigarette.

It took firefighters using shovels only minutes to quell the 0.1-acre fire; its implications were greater than the damage it did, Rickman said.

"It's an indication of how dry it is," Rickman said of the fire. "It still looks pretty and green, but it is really drying out."

Rickman said afternoon winds have been drying vegetation. He said he would not be surprised to see fire restrictions in place within a week.

It is the second wildland fire West Routt has put out this year. On July 2, another fire near Yampa Valley Regional Airport was started by a tossed cigarette and was about 0.1 acre in size.

Last year, a countywide fire ban went into effect June 10. Last year's restrictions prohibited fires to burn trash, fence or vegetation and banned campfires and grills in areas other than designated campgrounds and recreational sites.

If Warner recommends a fire restriction today, it would not go into effect until being approved by the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Monday.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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