Area closed by Middle Fork Fire reopens in Routt National Forest |

Area closed by Middle Fork Fire reopens in Routt National Forest

A cold sunrise Oct. 27 at the Middle Fork Fire's incident command post, with temperatures reaching -11 degrees. (U.S. Forest Service/courtesy)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Areas of Routt National Forest closed this summer due to the Middle Fork Fire have now been reopened, almost three months after the closures were initially put in place.

Consistent winter conditions during the last several weeks have suffocated the fire, which burned through the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area about 10 miles north of Steamboat Springs. The fire, first reported Sept. 6, burned 20,157 acres, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The closures were implemented Sept. 9.

Despite public access being restored to the burn area, the fire may still be smoldering, according to officials. Heat may still exist in thick timber stands and deadfall, though most hot spots have cooled, and smoke hasn’t been visible for several weeks.

Reconnaissance flights over the weekend showed no growth of the Middle Fork Fire, according to officials. Most of the isolated heat source, primarily in the burn scar’s northeast corner, is on a north-facing slope and remains covered by snow with minimal sun exposure.

Though the fire has been 100% contained, forest officials will continue to monitor the scene as it has not yet been declared as fully controlled or completely out.

The public is urged to use caution when entering the fire burn area as there will be many trees that have weakened due to the fire activity. Those trees could easily fall, forest officials said.

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