With several small fires, caution urged | SteamboatToday.com

With several small fires, caution urged

— Local fire officials are urging people to use extreme caution this holiday weekend.

"I think we're drying out fast," Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said Friday.

The hills and mountains in the Steamboat Springs area may appear green, but fire is a very real threat.

"Even though it's green, it's getting very dry," Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Mel Stewart said.

On Thursday, Steamboat firefighters responded to two small grass fires.

The first was on a hill above the Old Town Hot Springs along Fish Creek Falls Road. A Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer spotted the small fire and put it out before firefighters arrived. Fire Chief Mel Stewart said they were unable to determine what caused the fire.

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Fireworks triggered the second fire in Steamboat near Rotary Park along the Yampa River. City parks workers and Yampa River tubers put that fire out before firefighters arrived.

In Hayden, a tree stump caught fire at Hayden Town Park. It was not immediately clear what caused that fire.

On June 29, firefighters fully contained a lightning-caused fire that burned 4.5 acres in the Routt National Forest.

On Friday, Steamboat firefighters were conducting controlled burns at the fireworks launch sites on Howelsen Hill. Stewart said they were eliminating fuels in preparation for Saturday night's show.

During the show, firefighters will be staged at each of the launch sites. Stewart said they will be closely watching areas where pieces of the still-ignited fireworks land.

"We'll be able to respond to those quickly," Stewart said.

After the show, firefighters will monitor areas for about an hour.

"In the past, we've had a few small fires," Stewart said.

Severe drought conditions resulted in the Steamboat Fourth of July fireworks show being cancelled in 2012, but this year, the show will go on.

There are no fire restrictions currently in place for Routt County. Struble said none of the criteria have been met for enacting restrictions.

"We talked this week as the Northwest (Colorado) region if we needed to do a fire restrictions call," Struble said. "Everyone in our region said we didn't need to."

Struble said people should be careful with campfires and only have them in approved pits. People should also make sure campfires are fully extinguished.

Steamboat saw some sprinkles Thursday night, and a chance for thunderstorms continues through the weekend.

In May, Steamboat saw nearly 6.45 inches of precipitation, which was a record for the month and nearly triple the average.

In June, 1.3 inches of rain fell here, compared to the normal 1.77 inches.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Routt and Moffat counties are experiencing abnormally dry conditions.

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