Update: Dice Hill fire 100% contained as firefighters focus on hot spots
The Dice Hill Fire on the north end of Summit County has been 100% contained, according to officials with the Bureau of Land Management.
The fire hasn’t grown since it broke out Monday afternoon, July 20, remaining at 27 acres. Firefighters were able to construct containment lines around the entire area Tuesday, and spent most of Wednesday seeking out remaining hot spots.
Flame activity largely died out by Wednesday morning, and firefighters went out on foot circling the area to look for any spots that potentially could flame up again, a significant change in approach following two days of air support dumping water and slurry on the blaze.
Firefighters first responded to the fire at about 12:30 p.m. Monday, when a plume of smoke was spotted northwest of Heeney. About 100 responders arrived on scene Monday, including firefighters from the Bureau of Land Management and Summit and Grand counties. Operations were handed over to federal agencies Tuesday, including the Craig Interagency Hotshot Crew and the Mckenzie River Type 2 Initial Attack Crew.
Officials believe the fire was caused by lightning.
There were 74 firefighters still assigned to the blaze Wednesday, though staffing is expected to be reduced Thursday, according to Maribeth Pecotte, a public affairs specialist with the Bureau of Land Management.
Rain over the fire area Wednesday helped to cool down most hot spots, though firefighters will still be on the lookout over the coming days.
“There’s a couple areas where the fire has gotten into the heavy fuels, and it’s hard to find those pockets of heat when they’re in really large logs,” Pecotte said. “It gets in under them and inside of them. It’s a lot of work to break them apart and move them and find those pockets.”
Firefighters sometimes can spot hot areas through smoke but often have to rely on less efficient means like spotting white, ashy soil and checking the location for heat themselves with their hands. Pecotte said if heat is discovered, firefighters try to cool the area as gently as possible to avoid erosion issues on the land, stirring dirt and water onto the spot as opposed to blasting it with a firehose.
While the risk of large flames has been eliminated for now, the work is still burdensome for the firefighters. Pecotte said the fire is in heavy timber, much of it lying crisscrossed on the ground and creating difficulties for responders to move around. Firefighters also have to be watchful for heavy winds and lightning that could force them out of the area as well as other hazards, including falling trees and branches.
The closest structure is within about a quarter-mile of the fire, but Pecotte said the remaining hot spots are well withing the interior of the containment lines, and the nearest residents are already returning home.
Officials aren’t expecting any major changes in fire behavior but will continue to closely monitor the situation. Crews will remain on scene through at least Friday along with routine patrols through the area over the weekend and following days to make sure the fire doesn’t heat back up.
Community members may be able to see some smoke coming out of the area if conditions turn hot or windy but are being asked not to report smoke unless it is significant.
“We’re always going to be on our toes and watchful for any kind of changing behavior,” Pecotte said. “That being said, we are feeling pretty good about this one.”
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