Eleven horses from the Cog Fire evacuation area have been moved to the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden.

Casey Barnett/courtesy

Eleven horses from the Cog Fire evacuation area have been moved to the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden.

Wildfire near Hayden burns estimated 800 acres

— A fire that started along the side of a road near Hayden blew up and burned an estimated 800 acres of grass and shrubs before being brought under control Saturday evening.

No one was hurt and no structures were damaged in the blaze, but the fire at one time did threaten a communications tower and several homes in the area known as the Cog just north of town.

“We didn’t think it was a big deal,” said Ryan Zehner, who was supposed to be headed back to college in Boulder on Saturday. “Before we knew it, it was spreading east faster than we could imagine. I was terrified when the flames came over the hill, and then I thought we were going to lose our house.”

The Zehner family called workers from their construction company, Precision Excavating, to operate machinery to build fire lines to protect the home. Friends and neighbors came to the home to help the family evacuate. Community members came from the Routt County Fair to help move the Zehner’s three horses to the livestock evacuation center set up at the fairgrounds, where the 4-H livestock sale was happening. The sale went on as planned, despite the fire and large plumes of smoke that could be seen from the fairgrounds.

Zehner said his family was amazed and grateful for how the community came together to help them during the fire.

“Our home was just packed with people,” Zehner said. “It was just incredible.”

In addition to the Zehner’s three horses, there were eight other horses evacuated to the fairgrounds.

West Routt Fire Protection District firefighters were called to the fire along Routt County Road 76 about halfway up the Cog Road shortly before 1 p.m.

“When we first got there, it was probably about 10 acres, and we were pretty comfortable we could take care of it,” Capt. Dan Parrott said. “Within half an hour, it was going in every direction. It was unbelievable how fast this thing got out of hand.”

Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble helped Parrott bring in additional resources to fight the fire. North Routt, Oak Creek, Yampa, Craig and Bureau of Land Management firefighters came to help in addition to an official from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control. Two aircraft were brought in to drop retardant, and another was assigned to monitor the fire, which was the largest Routt County has seen in several years.

The Routt County Sheriff’s Office will attempt to determine what caused the fire.

“It could be a spark from a muffler, or someone could have thrown a cigarette out the window,” Lt. Doug Scherar said. “People just don’t realize how dry it is.”

Although the fire mostly was knocked down by nightfall, firefighters were going to meet at 8 a.m. Sunday to check on it.

Struble said he did not know what the fire would end up costing Routt County taxpayers. The local fire districts will be reimbursed for their time and equipment, and the county will have to pay for using the three aircraft for four hours each. The BLM will not charge the county for its help, Struble said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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