Summit County agencies fully contain 238-acre fire north of Silverthorne
Summit County fire agencies are demobilizing as the Brush Creek Ranch fire is fully-contained. The 238-acre wildfire reached 100-percent containment at 9 p.m. on Sunday, as more than 100 firefighters and hand crewmembers worked to establish a fire line encompassing the blaze.
“No one got hurt, and no structures were lost,” Lake Dillon Fire Chief Jeff Berino said. “As things stand today, it’s great example of cooperation with all of the entities involved.”
While the fire is fully-contained, it will not be considered “out” — that is, fully-extinguished — until the first winter snow has cooled the smoldering grass. At this point, crews are working on improving fire lines to ensure that it will be impossible for the fire to escape and are monitoring the area to make sure a blaze does not reignite.
“We still get some minor smoke popping up from the interior logs. It can smoke for several days,” Berino said. “It’s not out until the entire fire is cold with no smoke.”
The blaze started as a small 1.5-acre fire on Friday afternoon near Brush Creek Road, between Ute Pass and Green Mountain Reservoir. The fire grew substantially in size Friday night, burning through tall, dry grasses while winds blew it toward a nearby ridge.
Berino said the flames reached as high as 30 feet near the top of Cemetery Ridge, as they ate through beetle-killed pines and aspens. By Saturday morning, the fire had grown to 238 acres, against expectations. Most nights, winds will die down and humidity will rise — but, in this case, the fire continue to grow.
“This thing burned aggressively throughout the night. It’s uncharacteristic for Summit County,” Berino added.
On top of mutual aid from Vail, Kremmling, Park County, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and a Department of Corrections Juniper Valley Hand Crew, two helicopters were brought in as well as the Alpine Hotshots — for a total of more than 100 enlisted against the wildfire.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. While a storm was blowing in Friday afternoon, Berino said no lightning was reported in the immediate area.
A SWIFT RESPONSE
Sam Kirk, board president for Friends of the Lower Blue River, said he helped Brush Creek Ranch evacuate after they spotted the fire Friday afternoon.
“You could see it up on the ridge,” he said. “The eeriest was when it began to downdraft. There was nothing but smoke. You couldn’t see the ranch signs.”
The neighborhood implemented an evacuation plan that he and Bob Sweet, owner of the ranch, had developed several years ago as beetle kill peaked in the area. Neighbors quickly came in with horse trailers, relocating the animals to a corral further away from the fire and the smoke, which can harm the horses’ lungs and spook them.
“We were trying to work together as Friends of the Lower Blue River,” Kirk added. “We consider each other regardless of proximity as neighbors.”
According to county estimates, nearly 80 percent of the fire burned on private land — the Brush Creek Ranch — while the other 20 percent was Forest Service land. While much of firefighting costs came under mutual-aid agreements with other agencies the first day, Emergency Management Director Joel Cochran said that, for the second and third days, costs would be divided between the county and the federal government by land acreage.
Current cost estimates for the fire are at $275,000 but may change as work continues in the area. Berino said that since the fire was run under local agencies — such as the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Lake Dillon Fire and the Forest Service — the total cost remained relatively low.
“We’ve had a really efficient, very lean upper-management structure,” Cochran said. “We’ve just done a really good job of controlling costs and doing good work with those funds.”
From day four until the fire is fully-extinguished, costs will be split between the county and the Forest Service based on the share of work, at 40 percent and 60 percent, respectively. Cochran said a 2008 ballot initiative used to create an emergency-fire fund would be used to cover the county’s portion of the total cost.
“This is a good example to show that there’s some thought put into that — the resources that are immediately available to get on this fire and get it knocked down,” he said. “Amazing work has been done on that fire ground.”
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