Precipitation, cold front expected to help contain Middle Fork Fire
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County is expected to receive several inches of snow and a cold front in the upcoming week, which Middle Fork Fire spokesman Aaron Voos said will continue to help contain the fire.
“Firefighters have been able to make some improvements, and they are confident that some of the containment line that is in place, both natural line and ones that the firefighters have put in place, are going to hold,” he said.
The fire is currently at 60% containment, with “minimal behavior,” according to a written update for the fire.
In addition to fire containment, local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth said he expects Routt County to receive snow showers late Sunday night, early Monday morning and continuing into Tuesday, with moderate to heavy showers peaking between 3 and 9 p.m. Tuesday.
“I expect (Sunday) to be mostly precipitation free during the day, we should start getting snow showers overnight,” he said. “We’re going to have another cold front that’s going to come through about mid-afternoon (Monday).”
Weissbluth also said residents should expect to see about 1 inch of snow per hour in the peak of the storm Monday, which he said should make drivers extra cautious, particularly those driving over Rabbit Ears Pass.
“That is probably going to be an issue for travelers,” he said.
While the snow is expected to stick to the ground longer than it did in the last two bits of snow Steamboat Springs has seen this season, Weissbuth said Steamboat residents should expect about 2 inches closer to town to stick, with about 5 inches on the mountain.
“I expect cooler temperatures,” he said about temperatures for the week, which should help snow stick to the ground more than the snow from the storm several weeks ago.
Weissbluth also said the precipitation and cold temperatures throughout the week should help contain the fire, though Voos said the fire will likely never be at 100% contained and will likely extinguish itself as winter draws closer and snow continues to drop and stick on the fire.
“I don’t know for a fact, but I have to guess that the precipitation will help calm the fires this week,” Weissbluth said. “We’ve had our pattern shift, so we’re in a cooler pattern that’s more settled to fall.”
Routt County is still in Stage 2 fire restrictions, meaning any outdoor flammables are permitted and could be met with a summons to court, though Routt County Emergency Management reevaluated the county’s fire restriction status every week and could lift the status this week, Voos said.
While showers are expected to begin Sunday night, the county saw dry weather with winds at 10 to 20 mph over the weekend. Closures were lifted to better reflect current fire activity Thursday as the fire grew more contained. The change also has opened some of the Routt National Forest south of the fire, including the Elk Park Road area, and then everything east of the Continental Divide. There is now no closure in Jackson County for the Middle Fork Fire.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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