Fire enters Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area |

Fire enters Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area

Firefighters keep an eye on the Beaver Creek Fire near a structure. The fire is expected to grow.

— The wildfire that has been raging northwest of Walden recently grew to more than 9,000 acres and entered the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area on the other side of the Continental Divide.

The western edge of the Beaver Creek Fire is now near the trailhead to the Seven Lakes area in the Zirkel Wilderness.

Firefighters aren’t expecting the fire to let up anytime soon.

“We knew from the start that once it got established in the thick timber and the beetle kill, it would be a long-term event,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Aaron Voos said. “This is going to be something we as the Routt National Forest are going to be dealing with for quite some time.”

Voos said the fire’s growth will likely end up impacting summer recreation in North Routt County.

He said backpackers who venture out into the Zirkel Wilderness in the coming weeks will need to be aware of the fire activity.

As of Monday, the fire was 9,114 acres.

Days of low humidity and strong winds have not aided firefighting efforts in recent days.

Asked if the fire could cross the Continental Divide, Voos said it couldn’t be ruled out.

“Now that it’s in the wilderness, it might go for awhile,” Voos said, noting the Forest Service would not dedicate resources to fighting the fire in the wilderness area, and other parts of the forest remain a priority. “There is the chance it could get firmly established in the Zirkel Wilderness. What direction it goes, we just don’t know. This thing has gone north, south, east and west on us.”

The fire is still mostly burning south of the Wyoming border 15 miles north of Walden.

Firefighters have successfully protected several structures that were in the path of the blaze.

There were 487 firefighters assigned to the fire Tuesday. It was only 5 percent contained.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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