UPDATED: BREAKING: Latigo Ranch being evacuated due to Silver Creek Fire | CraigDailyPress.com

UPDATED: BREAKING: Latigo Ranch being evacuated due to Silver Creek Fire

Bryce Martin
Sky-Hi News

Smoke from the Silver Creek Fire has greatly increased as of Monday.

Updated at 3:30 p.m.: Due to increased activity of the Silver Creek Fire, officials have ordered mandatory evacuations of Latigo Ranch and pre-evacuations of Old Park, according to the Grand County Sheriff's Office.

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Additional fire crews were requested on Monday to begin setting up defensive measures at Latigo Ranch as the Silver Creek Fire begins to close in.

Latigo Ranch, a popular dude ranch and cross-country skiing destination located on County Road 1911 about 17 miles northwest of the town of Kremmling, is the closest group of structures to the fire. The blaze is a little more than one-and-a-half miles away from the ranch, according to Lt. Dan Mayer of the Grand County Sheriff's Office.

"We're non-emergent right now," said Mayer, who remained at the scene of the fire Monday afternoon. "We want to be in place just in case."

High wind conditions on Sunday caused the fire, which is burning across more than 2,000 acres of Routt National Forest in Grand and Routt counties, to break across an action point on the southern edge of the fire, just as U.S. Forest Service fire crews had reached a higher containment in that area of the fire. That prompted officials to issue a pre-evacuation notice for Latigo Ranch, meaning they should be ready in case officials order mandatory evacuations.

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Smoke from the blaze dramatically increased Monday as winds continued to gust, pushing the fire straight towards Latigo Ranch.

A type-six engine, which is a specific engine for battling wildfires, was requested at the ranch just before 1 p.m. Monday to help begin setting up defensive measures as necessary. Crews from Kremmling Fire Department, along with the Grand County Sheriff's Office, are actively monitoring the scene as a precaution.

Mayer said it's likely that mandatory evacuations would be put in place Monday evening if the fire continues on its current trajectory.

"We're on high alert," said Lisa George, co-owner of Latigo Ranch. "There's smoke that is looming large on our horizon."

While no mandatory evacuation orders have yet been made, the fire is moving towards crossing a secondary action point, which would prompt mandatory evacuations, according to Mayer. That line is a little more than a mile away from the ranch, in the middle of Red Dirt Reservoir.

"It's getting closer," George said. "We're a little distressed."

The ranch has an evacuation plan ready in case the worst-case scenario occurs and all staff members have been briefed on the situation.

There are only seven guests currently at the ranch, she said, but that's not the only worry as they can easily be transported from the ranch,  it's also “what we do with the 30 guests who are expected to come next week," she said worriedly. George is uncertain if she should ask those anticipated guests to rethink their travels to Latigo Ranch in case evacuations are ordered. If not, and the fire calms, the ranch loses that business.

"We kind of want to wait until the last minute, but you don't want to do that to the guests who are spending $10,000 on a vacation," she said. "It's a dilemma."

Officials are also keeping a close eye on the community of Old Park, which contains an estimated 200 homes. If winds change direction, the Silver Creek Fire could quickly be pushed towards that area, according to Mayer. A pre-evacuation plan is currently in the works for Old Park.

Currently, over 200 people are fighting the Silver Creek Fire with the assistance of two helicopters for water drops, five bulldozers to create containment lines and six engines. The fire, which began on July 19 from a lightning strike, is being fought under a suppression strategy.