Wildfire north of Hayden grows to 220 acres | SteamboatToday.com

Wildfire north of Hayden grows to 220 acres

Scott Franz

A plane skims above the forest on Saturday to dump fire retardant around the Mill Creek fire in North Routt County.

More firefighters were called in Monday to help battle a growing wildfire north of Hayden in California Park.

The Mill Creek Fire grew from 140 to 220 acres overnight Sunday after it was fed by wind.

"From about 8 p.m. (Sunday) to four in the morning (Monday), it was very dynamic," Routt County Emergency Management Director David "Mo" DeMorat said at a briefing Monday afternoon

There was still zero containment of the fire early Monday afternoon.

DeMorat estimated that by the end of Monday, there would be 150 firefighters working the blaze. About 85 firefighters were fighting the fire on Sunday.

Because of the fire's growth and the toll the blaze was taking on the county's ability to respond to other emergencies during the busy Fourth of July weekend, management of the fire has been handed over to the state.

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A Type III incident team was also called in.

Despite the fire's growth, only one residence on the land where the fire originated is threatened by the wildfire.

A fire engine has been stationed at the home to defend the structure should the fire get closer.

The fire started Saturday afternoon after a tree reportedly fell on a bulldozer that was building a preventative fire line on the private property near Pilot Knob.

DeMorat said he was told the bulldozer operator got out and left to get a chainsaw to cut the tree. But when the operator returned, the fire had started.

County officials speculated the hot diesel engine of the bulldozer may have ignited the fire.

At a briefing for Routt County commissioners, DeMorat and Regional Fire Management Officer Sam Parsons described some of the challenges firefighters are facing in the area.

He said firefighters on the ground reported the fire was burning in such dense forest some of the water drops from aircraft weren't able to reach the fire burning at the base of the timber.

A helicopter dropped about 12,000 gallons of water on the blaze Sunday.

County commissioners learned the county's cost for the initial efforts, which included several airdrops of fire retardant, would likely total $60,000 to $80,000.

The state is now funding the firefighting efforts.

Firefighters are using the exhibition hall at the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden as a command center.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10