Photo by Matt Stensland
A tractor is used to help stop a wildfire that started when a controlled burn got out of control Friday morning at a ranch along Routt County Road 37D in southwest Routt County.
Steamboat Springs Two more agricultural burns got out of control and turned into wildfires Friday in southern Routt County.
The latest wildfires again stirred discussion as to whether restrictions should be placed on controlled burns because of the unusually dry conditions. Local officials may meet Monday to consider enacting burning restrictions on private land.
“We’re very cognizant of the ag community needing to burn this time of year ... but we have to think of public safety at the same time,” West Routt Fire Protection Chief Bryan Rickman said Friday while working at the latest wildfire.
West Routt firefighters were called at about 11:30 a.m. to a fire at the Coyote Creek Ranch at Routt County Road 37 and C.R. 37D. Ditches at the cattle ranch were being cleaned out with an agricultural burn, and the fire got out of control. A crew from the Oak Creek Fire Protection District also responded.
Firefighters initially were concerned that the wind would cause the fire to jump Fish Creek. On the other side of the creek was a home and several other ranch buildings. The fire didn’t jump the creek, however, and a tractor was used to create a break in the dry grass. The fire was extinguished by 1:45 p.m. About 20 acres of pasture were burned.
Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said the conditions at the fire were similar to the conditions they saw at a wildfire Monday and Tuesday in the same area of the county. That fire burned 200 acres.
The vegetation on top of the ground was dry and flammable while the ground below was wet and partially frozen in spots.
“I think that’s what’s giving everyone a false sense of security,” Struble said.
The second wildfire Friday was reported at about 4:45 p.m. at 8250 Trailhead Lane southwest of Toponas. Yampa Fire Protection District firefighters were called to a report of another controlled burn that had gotten out of control and was threatening a haystack.
Firefighters from Yampa Fire Protection District, Oak Creek and the U.S. Forest Service responded to the wildfire.
Struble said the fire burned 20 acres of private property and 15 acres of Bureau of Land Management land. It was under control by early Friday night.
Dry conditions and strong winds have prompted the Colorado State Forest Service and the U.S. Forest Service to suspend any prescribed burns they had planned. Gov. John Hickenlooper also has urged counties to consider temporary suspensions for private land. Boulder, Arapahoe, Douglas, Eagle and Jefferson counties are among those that have enacted temporary fire bans.
Hickenlooper’s response came after the 4,140-acre Lower North Fork Fire on the Front Range was accidentally started by a prescribed burn. The fire was 70 percent contained as of Friday afternoon, but it already has claimed two lives and 27 buildings.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com