Homes threatened by raging brush fire

Craig Fire/Rescue responds to Milner fire

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A 150-acre brush fire south of Milner burned most of the day Sunday, threatening homes near Routt County Road 179 as winds reached 15 mph.

The fire was eventually doused about 10:30 p.m., but not before nearby residents had been evacuated and crews had been called in from fire departments throughout the valley.

Dozens of volunteers responded to the brush fire, including firefighters from Craig, Steamboat Springs, west Routt and Oak Creek. According to Craig Fire/Rescue Chief Roy Mason, Craig sent one engine to help with structure protection.

"They were up there for about three hours," said Mason. "It was mostly just for reinforcements to protect any structures."

An hour before the blaze was controlled, Routt County Sheriff John Warner was concerned because fire crews were having trouble fighting the flames, although no structures had been damaged.

"It's still burning and we still have structures threatened," Warner said about 9:30 p.m. "It's in such an area, on a ridge, that we can't get firefighters in there. They're basically flanking it."

Warner ordered that six houses near CR 179 be evacuated about 8 p.m. He said Red Cross workers offered help to people temporarily displaced.

The fire was reported at 2 p.m. Sunday. At 5 p.m., Warner gave the order to close CR 179.

"It's probably a quarter mile from there, but it's headed that way," Warner said of the fire Sunday night.

No injuries were reported, but an ambulance was requested at 6 p.m.

"We needed oxygen for the firemen who were breathing smoke all day," Warner said. "And as soon as they had rested a bit and breathed the oxygen, they went right back up to the fire."

Routt County Search and Rescue members and county Road and Bridge Department workers offered assistance as well.

Warner said aerial help was even used.

"We had one helicopter here for approximately 30 minutes and we thought we had the fire down, but the wind whipped back up," Warner said. "The wind on top is about 12 to 15 miles an hour. The winds are the biggest problem."

The fire, about 2 miles south of Milner, burned dry brush and scrub oak near a Tennessee walking horse ranch.

"The scrub oak is obviously real brown right now, along with sage brush and dry weeds," Warner said.

The fire reportedly started accidentally, as welders using blow torches worked on a fence, causing sparks to fall to the dry ground.

"We are interviewing the welder and his assistant right now," Warner said Sunday night. "And the cause is still under investigation."

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