‘People should not be panicked’: Middle Fork Fire reaches over 16K acres

Smoke from the Middle Fork Fire created a pyrocumulus cloud that was seen around Routt County in the fall of 2020.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Middle Fork Fire was measured at 16,120 acres as of Friday morning, marking a 4,128-acre increase since Thursday.

Thursday’s weather conditions pushed the fire mostly southeast and northwest, as the report states. Fire behavior is currently described as extreme, with fire moving through the crowns of trees and spotting, which is when sparks or embers are carried by the wind and start new fires beyond the zone of direct ignition.

While the fire is pushing closer to the Seedhouse Campground area, authorities said there are currently no plans for pre-evacuation orders. If the fire were to reach any pre-evacuation points, the Routt County Sheriff’s Office would alert residents with “plenty of time,” said Jesse McCarty, spokesperson for the Middle Fork Fire command.

This map shows the Middle Fork Fire’s progression since it began last month.

Firefighters are monitoring the fire from all ends, but the top priority, McCarty said, is the southern portion of the fire.

“People should not be panicked or even of high concern because of the plans we’re executing,” he said. “The community is very safe.”

An incoming cold front is driving winds Friday and Saturday, with cooler weather on Sunday and the possibility of precipitation. Temperatures are projected above normal through the extended forecasted with low relative humidities.

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The fire is located entirely in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area between Jackson and Routt counties, according to a report from the Type 3 incident team at command.

Routt National Forest is closed along the Zirkel Wilderness boundary east from Buffalo Pass Trailhead and north to Lost Ranger Trail. On the west the closure follows the forest boundary from Red Dirt Trailhead north to the North Fork drainage. To the south the closure follows Red Dirt Trail, Saddle and Saddle Cutoff trails, southeast to Rocky Peak, the intersection of Forest Service Road 314 and Summit Park Trail, southeast to the South Fork Soda Creek Drainage to Buffalo Pass Trailhead. And on the north the closure follows Lost Ranger Trail west, the Continental Divide Trail south to Lost Ranger Peak west to The Dome and down the North Fork drainage.

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