Blowdown area reduced by fires |

Blowdown area reduced by fires

Doug Crowl

— Two-thirds of the 1997 Routt Divide Blowdown is estimated to have burned in the Hinman and Burn Ridge fires.

Those fires, as well as Big Fish, Lost Lake and Green Creek fires, are still burning, but recent moisture has scaled down the intensity of the blazes, U.S. Forest Service officials said at a public meeting Wednesday night at Olympian Hall.

The Burn Ridge and Hinman fires in North Routt County, managed as the Mount Zirkel Complex, are 95 percent contained, but remain hot.

“It’s still smoking and there is a lot of heat in there,” said Kent Foster, fire management officer for the Forest Service

Collectively, the fires have burned to 31,016 acres.

Counted among that is most of the 4 million trees that were blown down by 120 mile per hour winds in the 1997 Routt Divide Blowdown.

The fires also burned a portion of the spruce beetle epidemic that followed the blowdown.

However, the epidemic wasn’t stopped by the blazes, Foster said.

Trails in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness will remain closed until the areas cool off.

The Big Fish fire has burned to 17,056 acres in and near the Flat Tops Wilderness but has been scaled down in management, said Bill Hahnenberg, a district ranger for the White River National Forest.

Moisture significantly cooled the fire to the point that it will just be monitored at this point.

Trails are still closed, but Hahnenberg said there’s a chance they will reopen this week.

“We think we will be able to have hunters hunt there as they have in the past,” he said.

The Big Fish fire and the Lost Lake fire, which burned 5,538 acres, are both being allowed to burn in a 154,000-acre management area in the forest.

If it moves out of the designated boundaries, a crew will attempt to contain the blaze, Hahnenberg said.

Officials are considering the Lost Lake fire as one of the healthier burns that occured this summer.

It left a mosaic of scorched areas in the forest that will eventually provide a diversity of vegetation.

“I’ll be honest,” acting Yampa District Ranger Tom Florich said. “While this rain is good, I’d like to see some more activity on that fire. When the public gets in there, I think they will see that it was a healthy fire.”

The closures of trials on the east side of the Flat Tops Wilderness has been moved back to allow better access, and within a week officials expect full access to the area.

The Green Creek fire is fully contained and the Sarvis Creek Wilderness is completely open.

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