Forest Service announces first trailhead closures due to growing Middle Fork Fire, now just under 12K acres | SteamboatToday.com
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Forest Service announces first trailhead closures due to growing Middle Fork Fire, now just under 12K acres

Columns of smoke rise from the Middle Fork Fire north of Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Middle Fork Fire was measured at 11,992 acres and growing as of Thursday morning, marking a 1,938-acre increase since Wednesday.

Fire officials have now closed the Summit Park and Roaring Fork trailheads, the first two trailheads to be closed due to the Middle Fork Fire.

Aaron Voos, spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, said the fire may never be 100% contained, and it is currently at 0% containment due to its location and topography.

“It’s just a different kind of fire than a typical fire that you’d try and establish fire lines around because of the topography, the fact that it’s in wilderness and the time of year,” he said.

The fire is located within the Mount Zirkel Wilderness, about 10 miles north of Steamboat Springs and is currently burning east, but if the fire burns south or west, officials will work to contain it.

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“It’s very weather dependent,” Voos said.

Steamboat’s forecast for the next week is around 60 degrees with a possibility of precipitation on Sunday, which Voos said would help contain the fire. The most likely scenario, he said, is the fire continuing until snow settles in for the winter season.

Smoke from the fire continues to blow into Steamboat and the surrounding areas of Routt County, combining with smoke from the Mullen and Cameron Peak wildfires, currently burning to the county’s northeast and east, respectively.

Thick smoke clouds can be seen from Steamboat, and the air quality Thursday evening was marked as unhealthy with an air quality index of 181, but air quality levels reached over 500 late morning Thursday.

Portions of the Routt County National Forest remain closed, including the Zirkel Wilderness boundary on the east side, the south side on Newcomb Creek Trail, Continental Divide Trail, the wilderness boundary and Swamp Park Trail, Saddle Trail, Saddle Cut-off and Red Dirt Trail. The west side between National Forest and private lands east of Big Creek from Red Dirt Trailhead to Roaring Fork Trail and the north side along the wilderness boundary. The North Fork Drainage up to The Dome, east to Lost Ranger Peak, Continental Divide Trail and Lost Ranger Trail are also closed.

The fire was first reported Sept. 6, and its cause has been attributed to lightning.

To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4220 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.


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