Mill Creek Fire northeast of Hayden grows, now 25 percent contained | SteamboatToday.com

Mill Creek Fire northeast of Hayden grows, now 25 percent contained

Favorable winds have helped firefighters contain 25 percent of the human-caused Mill Creek Fire burning 13 miles northeast of Hayden.

"Fire is not moving, but rather it has a lot of hot spots in the interior that torch periodically,” said Schelly Olson, a spokeswoman for the fire. “We call that a ‘dirty burn’ where there is unburned fuel left within the fire perimeter. Working toward doubling our containment percentage by tomorrow (Thursday) night."

With 25 percent containment, it means a control line has been completed around the fire, which can reasonably be expected to stop the fire's spread.

Back-burning operations Tuesday night helped the fire grow from 270 acres to 452 acres by Wednesday morning.

"It created some more acreage, but it put us in a position to fight the fire safely — fighting the fire on our terms instead of the forest's terms," Olson said.

About 150 people are involved in the firefighting operations.

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"It seems to me the fire is cooperating, and the plan of attack seems to be working," Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said.

The incident command center has been established at the Routt County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, and the fire is being accessed via Routt County Road 80.

While the road is still open, officials are asking people not to drive on the road because of the amount of firefighting equipment in the area.

A helicopter did more than 100 round-trips and dropped more than 20,000 gallons of water on the fire Tuesday.

Because the fire is burning on mostly private land, the goal is to extinguish the fire.
To the west of the fire, there are five ranches with structures.

"We've identified them, and they are our top priority," Olson said.

Wiggins provided some more details Wednesday about how they believe the fire started.

Wiggins said the landowner had hired someone to build a fire break.

The person was using a bulldozer when a tree fell on the machine. The operator went to get a saw, and the bulldozer was on fire when the operator returned.

Wiggins said federal investigators will likely be investigating the cause of the fire because 5 percent of the fire is burning on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Smoke could be seen throughout the Yampa Valley on Wednesday. Likely contributing to the smoke are fires in Colorado and Utah.

Evacuations were ordered at the Peak 7 subdivision Wednesday afternoon in Breckenridge as a fire on Peak 2 quickly spread.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland