Firefighters on high alert after lightning

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— Fire officials in Northwest Colorado have been on high alert since 5,000 lightning strikes were reported Sunday night in Rio Blanco, Moffat, Jackson, Grand and Routt counties.

Routt National Forest zone fire management officer Mark Cahur said his agency has dealt with three fires in the past week thought to have been caused by lightning.

Two of the fires were in northern Routt County. The Park Fire near Big Red Park and the Willow Lake Fire northeast of Meaden Creek were about 0.25 acres and have been put out, Cahur said. The Skillet Fire north of Mosquito Lake in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area was reported by a U.S. Forest Service employee and may be contained to a single tree.

“We’re currently not taking any action,” Cahur said. “I hate to call it a fire because I think it’s out.”

Cahur said a crew would hike in today to see whether the fire was active.

Fire danger in the Routt National Forest is moderate, but that could change in the next week as vegetation continues to dry out, Cahur said.

A news release from the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit stated that crews responded to five small fires Monday. Rain accompanying recent thunderstorms helped limit the number of new fires, and no structures were threatened.

Firefighters are building fire lines to keep a fire from moving farther into Dinosaur National Monument.

The 320-acre Ladore Fire reported Friday is two miles northwest of the Gates of Lodore in the Bureau of Land Management Diamond Breaks Wilderness Study Area and 32 miles northeast of Vernal, Utah. It is in an inaccessible location and is being allowed to burn naturally.

“Fire officials are allowing this fire to play its natural role in the environment, which will encourage regeneration of grasses and shrubs while cleaning up dead and down vegetative materials,” the news release stated.

Lightning caused the fire.

— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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