With flames creeping over the hillside Sunday afternoon, a Routt County couple acted quickly to evacuate their home.
Karl and Sue Kjolhede were not told to get out, but they wanted to be safe, and neighbors arrived steadily to help at their home along Routt County Road 46 near the base of Sleeping Giant. After gathering their passports, important papers, horses and valuables, it became somewhat apparent that their home was no longer immediately at risk.
Sue Kjolhede shook her head at times during the ordeal, frustrated that one of her neighbors had decided to do a controlled burn in the dry conditions.
“It started out as an agricultural burn, the winds picked up and it jumped the road, and this is where we’re at now,” Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said as he looked at the fire.
As night fell and the fire burned in thick vegetation at the base of Sleeping Giant, it was no longer thought to be threatening any structures.
The fire appeared to encompass a large area, but Struble said mapping done by BLM showed it had only burned about 40 acres. Smoke from the fire could be seen from throughout parts of Routt County.
Routt County Sheriff’s Office Investigator T.J. Sisto came across the controlled burn at about 2 p.m. Sunday before it had jumped the county road and onto state land used by the public to access the Sleeping Giant area during hunting season. Once it jumped the road, Sisto said it spread quickly and was more than one person could put out.
Firefighters from the North Routt, West Routt, Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs fire protection districts were called to help, and county employees trucked in a bulldozer. Firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and BLM arrived as night fell, but Struble said wildfire suppression resources are limited this time of year.
“It’s not fire season,” he said.
As the temperatures dropped to freezing Sunday night, Struble said the fire was calming down.
“Hopefully it will put itself out tonight,” Struble said.
BLM firefighters determined the fire was not burning on their land, but rather state and private land. Struble said they were going to meet Monday morning at the fire to decide how to proceed.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com