15- to 20-acre Straight Creek Fire ignites east of Dillon

The Straight Creek Fire burns near Interstate 70 east of Dillon on Thursday, June 10.
Photo from Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons

Editor’s note: I-70 reopened late Thursday, but fire officials warn it likely will close again Friday while crews work to extinguish the blaze.

The Straight Creek Fire ignited off Interstate 70 near Dillon on Thursday afternoon. As of 9 p.m., the fire was about 15 to 20 acres, and firefighters were still on scene working to control it. Officials said no structures are threatened.

At about 6:30 p.m., firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service, Summit Fire & EMS, and the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District responded to a blaze off I-70 near milepost 209 east of Silverthorne, according to Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons. He said the fire is on U.S. Forest Service land.

Summit Fire spokesperson Steve Lipsher said the fire was moving toward the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels, and that residents in Silverthorne and Dillon don’t need to be worried for now.

“The fire is blowing up toward the tunnel, and right now there’s no need for anyone to be overly concerned about the fire reaching developed areas,” Lipsher said. “But I think the bigger issue is its June 10, and we’ve got ourselves a regular, serious wildfire here. … All of this is not the harbinger for the fire season we hoped we would see, but it is a definite moment that should promote contemplation and awareness on behalf of our residents and visitors. We are in fire season, and they need to be prepared for fire season.”

Lipsher said there were about 30 responders on-site Thursday night, including firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and other supporting staff. Aircraft has also responded to the blaze. Firefighters expect the fire to burn overnight.

“It’s burning in dead, standing lodgepole and spruce,” Lipsher said. “We’re seeing torching and active fire behavior blown by the wind. Nothing outrageous or crazy, but it keeps burning down low, and then it will hit what we call jackpots, which are really receptive stands of dead trees, and they’ll just flare up. … It’s going to burn into the night, and hopefully the winds die down, and by morning we’ll be able to make some good headway on knocking this thing down.”

While the fire isn’t currently threatening any structures, Lipsher said there were still values at stake in the area. He said the fire was just a “couple hundred yards” south of the interstate, and road closures could continue as the fire lingers. I-70 eastbound remained closed at Silverthorne Exit 205 as of 9 p.m. Thursday with a detour over Loveland Pass.

Lipsher noted that Straight Creek, nearby where the fire is burning, is a water source for the town of Dillon, and that there were high-tension power lines in the area that had been de-energized.

Earlier Thursday, the local fire districts increased the fire danger level from low to very high. Lipsher said the change in conditions throughout the day was considerable.

“I’ve never seen it go from a rating of low this morning to very high as of now,” Lipsher said. “In one day, we jumped three levels; we skipped moderate and high. … Our humidity is really low for whatever reason. We’re dry, dry, dry.”

Boyd said crews will monitor the fire Thursday night and that more resources are expected to arrive Friday, when the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management unit’s Type 3 Incident Management Team will assume command.

The cause of the fire is undetermined.

Summit Fire crews also responded to a small grass fire in Dillon near the Red Mountain Grill on Thursday. Lipsher said officials believe the fire was started when power lines touching each other sent a shower of sparks to the ground, but the fire never grew more than a couple yards in size.

“Local condo residents very quickly jumped on it,” Lipsher said. “They brought out shovels and buckets of water and had it stomped out before it got anywhere. It was not a threatening wildfire. But the residents did a great job, and good for them for being on top of things and aware. By the time our engine crew arrived, the fire was out.”

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