Otter Creek fire not threatening to spread |

Otter Creek fire not threatening to spread

by Jane Stebbins

HEENEY – The Otter Creek fire south of Heeney has burned two acres of forest, but isn’t threatening to jump lines of slurry dumped in the area Monday evening.

“We boxed it in with retardant to buy ourselves some time to get some ground forces up there,” said Eric Rebitzke, assistant fire management officer for the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit. “The slurry is great; it helps us out. But fires have been known to burn through slurry lines. At this point they’re still working to create a safe anchor point at the heel of the fire and build a line around it.”

A five-person attack squad from Holy Cross Ranger District in Minturn is building a line around the fire, which is slowly burning in a forest of fir, spruce, lodgepole and aspen. A helicopter has been ordered, but officials do not know when it will arrive.

“Resources are fairly scarce these days,” Rebitzke said, adding that officials have no estimate when it might be contained. “We feel pretty comfortable with what we’ve got up there. We’re not expecting any major problems. If it does pick up, we’re definitely going to get some air tankers on it.”

Slurry planes dumped nine loads of red fire retardant on a tendril of smoke rising up at the base of Dora Mountain Monday as fire officials scouted areas where they might be able to land a helicopter. Various lakes in the area are available from which to obtain water, including Surprise and Upper and Lower Black lakes.

Lower winds and cooler temperatures have helped firefighters, Rebitzke said. Yet the potential for fire spread is still high. On a scale that takes into account weather conditions and moisture levels in the forest, Summit County is rated five, or moderate. Rebitzke said unstable atmospheric conditions Monday put the county at a level of six – the highest – meaning there was a high potential for the winds to help spread the fire.

Firefighters also were sent out Monday night on the report of a fire near Prairie Point Campground east of Green Mountain Reservoir, Rebitzke said. They have yet to locate it.

Weather conditions are expected to stay the same – hot and dry – for the foreseeable future, Rebitzke said.

“Everyone knows we had a mild winter,” he said. “Summer’s not looking too much better.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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