Tenderfoot Fire near Dillon spreads to 21 acres; no evacuations yet

Jack Queen Summit Daily
A wildfire broke out Monday near Dillon.
Hugh Carey /

A wildfire broke out near Dillon late Monday afternoon sending up a large plume of smoke and causing intermittent power outages, but the weather was favorable and limited its spread to roughly 21 acres by 6:30 p.m.

Firefighters with Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue and the U.S. Forest Service were working to contain the fire from below and planned to hook uphill and wrap around it.

By the evening, two heavy air tankers and a helicopter were repeatedly hammering the blaze with fire retardant slurry and water.

The fire’s growth was limited, but by the evening a hot spot on its northern end had grown significantly.

“It’s definitely growing uphill but is not making any huge runs,” LDFR spokesman Steve Lipsher said on scene. “The weather couldn’t be better in terms of not exacerbating the flames, so we’re fortunate there.”

Fire danger is currently moderate in Summit County, Lipsher noted, and fuels are relatively moist. That could help prevent the fire from making a quick leap up the mountain. At 6:30 p.m., there was very little wind blowing, which was a good sign for firefighters.

No evacuations or pre-evacuations were ordered Monday night, despite the fire’s proximity to town. Officials said no structures were considered threatened.

Still, many among the scores of people parked on the side of U.S. Highway 6 to watch the fire were alarmed.

“We’ve never had a fire like this close to Dillon,” said Mike Smith. The power went out at his home in Dillon at about 4:30 p.m. but came back on by 6:30.

“This is scary. This is really scary,” he said.

As he spoke, a small patch of flames on the northern flank of the fire was flaring up, leaving a finger of charred grass where it had climbed up from the main fire.

“This is awfully close,” said Dillon resident Kevin Adamson. “All this beetle kill is unreal. But they’re going to throw everything they’ve got at this, so that’s good.”

Dillon residents started reporting power outages shortly after the fire broke out. It was burning near heavy power transmission lines, and Lipsher said LDFR was coordinating with Xcel Energy to intermittently cut power to at-risk infrastructure.

Summit County officials issued an alert just before 6 p.m. advising residents to limit their water usage because the outages would affect the nearby water plant.

Throughout the evening, air tankers made a half-dozen slurry drops and by 7 p.m. a helicopter was dousing the southern end of the fire with water bucket drops.

The spectacle was likely to go on for some time. 

“It’s going to burn for a while and it’s going to burn uphill,” Lipsher said.