More manpower called in to battle growing wildfire in west Routt County | AspenTimes.com

More manpower called in to battle growing wildfire in west Routt County

Scott Franz
Steamboat Today

Brent Romick felt a lot better when the cavalry arrived to help him save the ranch.

“It’s been a pleasure watching these guys work,” the Wolf Mountain Ranch manager said Tuesday afternoon amidst the sounds of helicopters, low-flying planes, bulldozers and fire trucks that were fighting the Deep Creek Fire burning around the ranch. “Yesterday it was very scary. We feel a lot better today. The game changed when that air tanker arrived. And we’ve got all the ants on the hill now.”

Fueled by strong winds, the blaze had consumed more than 2,000 acres of land on Wolf Mountain by Tuesday morning and spooked nearby residents who spent Monday night watching it advance down a hillside.

The rapidly growing wildfire between Milner and Hayden caused ash to rain down in Steamboat and prompted emergency responders here to scramble to find more resources at a time those resources are tied up responding to other fires and major natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey.

Earlier in the day, Denver area schools cancelled recess due to the smoke that was coming from the two big wildfires now burning here in Northwest Colorado.

Wolf Mountain Ranch, about seven miles north of U.S. Highway 40, was still the epicenter for firefighting activity Tuesday.

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Dozers cleared lines of brush to prevent the spread of fire, as a helicopter went back and forth dropping water on a ridge.

Still, flames edged closer to structures as the winds picked back up around the Deep Creek Fire.

But as the fire continued to grow, it was met with more manpower on the ground and in the air.

Around 3:30 p.m. several U.S. Forest Service trucks carrying firefighters pulled into the ranch.

At a briefing, firefighters were told the fire’s greatest threat came from the north, where it was getting into taller, more dense sets of trees.

Fire engines were babysitting nearby structures as firefighters dug fire lines.

And amidst the flurry of activity, Romick was very much hoping fire crews could also save something else — acres and acres of prime elk habitat near Wolf Mountain.

The ranch is home to a large conservation easement.

And even amidst all the loud noises of heavy machinery, firefighters could hear several elk bugling nearby.

“We’re trying to protect this place as best we can,” Romick said.

Over at the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden, officials were setting up a command center and preparing for more personnel to arrive.

West Routt Fire Chief Dal Leck informed Romick a type II incident response team had been ordered to manage the fire.

“What does that mean for us?” Romick asked Leck at the ranch.

“It means it’s about to get busier,” Leck responded.

It has been a busy summer for Hayden’s fire chief, who has now seen two big wildfires erupt in the western part of the county.

But even after another blaze cancelled his firefighters' Labor Day holiday plans, Leck displayed a sense of humor, jokingly telling those inside the command center in the morning they had violated the 30-minute parking limit in the fairground’s parking lot.

Routt County Emergency Management Director David “Mo” DeMorat said though Wolf Mountain Ranch had been evacuated, no other homes in the vicinity of the fire needed to be evacuated as of Tuesday evening.

All Routt County residents are encouraged to sign up for emergency alerts at routtcountyalerts.com.

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