Firefighters get a handle on small fire burning at Carpenter Ranch near Hayden |

Firefighters get a handle on small fire burning at Carpenter Ranch near Hayden

— The forecast 40 mph wind gusts never arrived Tuesday afternoon, and firefighters got a solid handle on a wildland fire at the Carpenter Ranch just east of Hayden.

Although the 7-acre fire was relatively small, there was a lot of fuel for the fire to burn, and putting it out meant manual labor and handwork for firefighters.

“We’ll probably have to come back (Wednesday) and clean up in the center,” Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said Tuesday.

It is likely that residents will continue to see some smoke in the area along the Yampa River.

West Routt Fire Protection District Chief Bryan Rickman said Tuesday that the fire, which was reported at 11 a.m. Monday, quickly grew from one-half acre to 5 acres. Fire officials think it started when lightning hit a cottonwood tree at about 9 p.m. Sunday.

There were 21 firefighters from Hayden, Steamboat Springs, Oak Creek and Yampa who were aggressively fighting the blaze and putting out hot spots Tuesday.

Much of the Carpenter Ranch burn area is surrounded by the Yampa, and the fire was hundreds of yards away from buildings on the historic ranch property.

The ranch is owned by The Nature Conservancy and is known for bird watching and hiking.

A fire crew from Loveland came to help fight the fire and cut down 20 to 30 trees. Rickman said he wanted to make sure future visitors to the ranch were safe, so it was important to take down the cottonwood trees that were hazardous.

Because of the protected nature of the property, Rickman said firefighters were careful to minimize the impact of firefighting efforts on the land. That meant carrying tools in and out and not using heavy machinery.

Ranch manager Geoff Blakeslee said the fire burned a small area of the 950-acre ranch.

“It shouldn’t have any impact at all,” Blakeslee said. “It’s only 7 acres in the riparian forest.

Blakeslee said visitors to the ranch should avoid using the trails in the burned area.

Moffat County on Tuesday was under a red flag warning, which is issued by the National Weather Service to indicate high wind, low humidity and dry fuels will keep the fire dance high through 10 p.m. Thursday. Humidity levels were higher in Routt County, where the fire danger was lower.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email

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