Coal discovered on fire at Deep Creek Fire northeast of Hayden

Matt Stensland/Steamboat Today
A bald eagle flies in front of the Deep Creek fire on Tuesday, Sept. 5.
Scott Franz/Steamboat Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Drones being used for surveillance at the Deep Creek Fire, which is burning nine miles northeast of Hayden, revealed something unexpected Tuesday.

Flying drones by members of the public at the fire is not allowed, but the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting and the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control flew the drones to scout bulldozer lines on the western edge of the fire.

The area is too dangerous for firefighters, and fire managers wanted to determine what fuels were burning within the perimeter of the fire, which is 80 percent contained.

What they were not expecting to find was what appeared to be a coal seam that was on fire within the perimeter south of Routt County Road 56.

“We don’t know exactly what it is,” Routt County Emergency Management Director David “Mo” DeMorat said. “We have to get some heavy equipment and do some digging to determine what it is.”

Firefighters have discovered coal while digging fireline at the fire, and DeMorat said they believe there is an old mine of some kind in the area.

In other areas of Colorado, there are coal seams that have been burning for decades.

“We hope that’s not the case,” DeMorat.

In addition to a coal seam, the fire could simply be burning in old piles of coal leftover from a mine.

DeMorat said they have been talking with mining experts to see who might be able to consult on the fire.

The fire did not grow in size Monday or Tuesday, and it has burned 4,112 acres. Firefighters continue to monitor and strengthen containment lines.

With the fire now at 80 percent containment, DeMorat said a good portion of the firefighters who have been working at the fire have been diverted to a fire in South Dakota.

The national Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Black had been brought in to manage the fire.

DeMorat said control of the fire will be passed on to local fire resources in the next few days.

Smoke from the fire will likely stay visible in the coming days and weeks.

“We’re probably going to see some flare-ups and smoke in the interior,” DeMorat said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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