Routt County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Doug Scherar watches Tuesday as a wildfire spreads at a ranch along Routt County Road 31 in the southern part of the county. Sheriff Garrett Wiggins estimated the fire had burned 200 acres and was not under control as of Tuesday evening.
Wildfire burns an estimated 300 acres in Routt County
Weather prompts red flag warning for western Colorado
Steamboat Springs Area firefighters continue to work today to get a large Routt County wildfire under control before fire weather conditions worsen this afternoon. The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a red flag warning from noon to 9 p.m.
Tuesday’s wildfire was reported shortly after noon at the same time local officials were meeting to discuss wildland fire season conditions and concerns. The fire was not under control as of early Tuesday evening, and no structures had been damaged or were threatened, Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said. An estimated 300 acres had burned as of Tuesday evening. Strong winds helped the fire spread to the northeast along the side of steep, rocky terrain.
As of this morning, officials said firefighters were working to extinguish hot spots and secure full containment of the wildfire.
Wiggins said the wildfire started when ranch workers lost control of an agricultural burn intended to clean out ditches. Such wildfires have become common in recent weeks as dry conditions persist. There now have been at least 11 since March 15 that were caused by controlled burns that got out of control, but Tuesday’s could end up being the largest to date. The Middle Creek Ranch fire could end up being the largest to date.
Wiggins urged people who are considering performing agricultural burns to use common sense, especially on days when fire weather exists.
“If it’s not an absolute necessity, I would caution anyone from doing any controlled burns,” Wiggins said.
Several times in recent weeks firefighters from throughout the county have been called to help with wildfires. Those duties could limit the help available for other emergencies.
“Resources are getting stretched to the max,” Wiggins said.
The Middle Creek Ranch fire along Routt County Road 31 mostly was burning on private land owned by the ranch, but Wiggins said it might have spread over the hill onto land owned by Twentymile Coal Co. Smoke from the fire could be seen from the company’s coal operations based about two miles northwest of the fire. It also could be seen from west Steamboat.
The wildfire was burning within the boundaries of the Oak Creek Fire Protection District, but firefighters from other local agencies were helping in addition to the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Wiggins estimated there were at least 20 firefighters working the fire Tuesday afternoon, and more were on the way.
Firefighters were expected to work into the night, and Wiggins said the county had brought in a bulldozer to dig a control line down from the rock wall to the county road in an effort to keep the fire from spreading.
“They’re going to keep working as hard as they can to get that knocked down before" Wednesday, Wiggins said.