Middle Fork Fire grows to over 10K acres as smoke coming into area worsens

The Middle Fork Fire as seen Wednesday from aerial crews.
U.S. Forest Service/courtesy

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Marking its largest growth since Sept. 26, the Middle Fork Fire increased by 1,179 acres Wednesday, according to officials.

The fire is now at 10,054 acres but is still entirely located within the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area north of Steamboat Springs. It’s currently in the north side of the South Fork Mad Creek bottom, according to the Type 3 incident team at command.

A Type-2 helicopter has joined crews at the scene for the foreseeable future to assist with suppression efforts. Personnel at the fire total 69, including four helicopters as well as fixed-wing air attack to help coordinate aerial operations. The helicopters are attempting to keep fire growth controlled by using bucket drops for incidents of small tree group torching.

“There was moderate fire behavior Wednesday,” officials said.

Fire officials and members of the U.S. Forest Service are currently evaluating area closures due to the fire. There is a potential that closures could be adjusted in an attempt to reduce impact on public land users and increase safety.

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. No roads or trailheads are closed.

Temperatures continue to be forecast as above normal with low humidity.

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.

The Mullen Fire is at 161,151 acres, according to officials commanding that fire, and is now larger than the Pine Gulch Fire near Grand Junction. That blaze is 14% contained.

The main source of smoke in the immediate area, however, continues to be the Middle Fork Fire. Air quality levels measured Wednesday morning in Steamboat were reported at 357, according to At that level, warnings are issued for emergency health conditions if exposed to the air for 24 hours. The entire population is more likely to be affected at that point, according to the air quality website.

The fire is burning in Routt National Forest in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, about 10 miles north of Steamboat Springs. It was first reported Sept. 6, and its cause has been attributed to lightning.

To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email

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