Crews continue fire mop-up Saturday |

Crews continue fire mop-up Saturday

Reid Williams

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County’s firefighters were released from the scene of a wildland fire near the Dillon Dam Saturday, but U.S. Forest Service crews remained on site to look for hot spots.

According to Forest Service officials, the federal firefighters will continue to monitor the area, including an investigation into the yet-undetermined cause of the fire.

A fire erupted about 4:30 p.m. Friday between Dillon and Silverthorne on a ridgeline west of the Blue River softball fields. The fire forced the temporary closure of the Dillon Dam Road as fire departments from around the county and other emergency response agencies converged on the location.

Summit County Communications training supervisor Chris Benson said 911 operators received more than 200 phone calls from residents reporting smoke in the first hours of the fire.

The approximately 2-acre fire required the deployment of fire retardant-dropping air tankers from the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management air center in Grand Junction.

Lake Dillon Fire Rescue Capt. Mike Long, the department’s wildland fire coordinator, said local firefighters were dismissed from the area about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and about 15 Forest Service firefighters stayed to continue looking for hot spots.

“It certainly appears under control,” Long said. “They’re just making sure there isn’t anything that could whip up in the wind or with increased temperatures.”

Long said firefighters were feeling confident about containing the fire late Friday night, but most worked into Saturday morning. There were few smoking hotspots when crews returned in the morning, but as temperatures rose during the day, smoke led firefighters right to the danger zones.

Forest Service fire investigators canvassed the scene Saturday but reached no conclusions about the fire’s cause. Two campers based near the fire were questioned by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and the Forest Service, but they were later released. Forest Service law enforcement officer Tom Healy said the campers were helpful in providing information that led to the fire source.

Other campers were seen fleeing the area, and Healy said he will continue looking for clues.

“It’s still undetermined, but there’s a good probability it was humans that caused this,” Healy said. “But we haven’t fully ruled out lightning, either. There’s no power lines or railroads in the area, so the usual suspects have been eliminated.”

Firefighters will monitor the ground for the next few days, Healy said, and land users should be able to return today. Several bike trails and camping areas are in the vicinity.

Summit County Sheriff Joe Morales, the county’s statutory commander in wildfire responses, said he was proud of the quick and cooperative action of the dozen agencies that handled the fire. Morales called the operation a “great collaborative effort.”

Long added the Agape Outpost Baptist Chapel deserved “a huge thanks” for sending in its traveling red bus. Church members fed firefighters and other personnel Friday night, as well as breakfast and lunch on Saturday.

“They made sure everybody had a hot meal and that kept us all going,” Long said.

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or

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