Muddy Slide, Morgan Creek fires still not fully contained; officials say area closures could linger
Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect the containment of the Morgan Creek Fire is 24%.
After several months of burning, the two largest wildfires in Routt County this summer are at higher levels of containment and suppression.
The 4,093-acre Muddy Slide Fire in South Routt County is currently at 80% containment, according to InciWeb.gov, a fire information database maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. The fire started June 20.
The Muddy Slide Fire remains a Type 4 incident, which means firefighters are in the area monitoring for activity. Though it continues to smolder within its existing footprint, the fire has limited potential for spread. Suppression repair work, an immediate post-fire action taken to repair damages caused by a fire, started two weeks ago and is about 75% complete, according to Aaron Voos, spokesperson with the Forest Service.
The Morgan Creek Fire, which is burning in North Routt County, saw a small flareup this week and is currently 60% contained. The fire, believed to have been caused by lightning, started July 9 in the Hinman Lake area south of Seedhouse Road.
Containment of the Morgan Creek Fire has steadily increased due to the efforts of fire crews and precipitation. Showing reduced behavior, the number of resources stationed at the fire have decreased.
While the blaze may seem to be winding down, Voos said area closures, which have impacted many areas of high interest in North Routt, could be in place for much longer, though it is impossible to say how much longer.
“We don’t want the closures to go for long, extended periods of time, but how long we have them in place is based solely on those factors for fire activity and public safety,” Voos said. “We will adjust it as we can, but nothing is planned right now, and we know that’s frustrating.”
When deciding when and how to enact a fire closure, Voos said the Forest Service takes into account a variety of factors. The safety of firefighters and the public comes first, but fire experts also consider recreation at different times of year, such as hiking and hunting peak seasons.
“Putting those area closures in in the first place is difficult and not something we want to do, but constantly adjusting them is tiresome for the public and for us,” Voos said.
While the Forest Service lifted some of the closure around the Morgan Creek Fire in August, opening recreation opportunities in the Routt National Forest to the south and west sides of the fire, Voos said the closure of Seedhouse Road, home to some of the most iconic hikes in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area and Slavonia Trailhead, is likely to remain in place for the remainder of the summer and fall seasons.
“If fire activity increases, we may have to increase the closure back to where it was previously,” Voos said. “The closures are in place because there is a potential for fire activity to still flare up.”
As temperatures are beginning to drop, Voos said Routt County residents should still be diligent about fire mitigation protocols.
“We know that it’s a time of year where the nights and mornings are a little chiller, and people want their morning fires, but we’re asking people to figure out a different way to warm up, or use one of our fire rings in developed recreation sites,” Voos said.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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