Tuesday’s moisture helps moderate Morgan Creek Fire
The Morgan Creek Fire, which began burning Friday in North Routt County, is still listed at 3,868 acres as of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to Hutson Vann, U.S. Forest Service spokesperson for the fire. It is 0% contained.
Vann said the rain and humidity Routt County received Tuesday helped minimize fire behavior.
“This weather allows firefighters to take a more direct engagement with the fire and be a little more aggressive, because that fire is not as active as what we’ve seen in the last three days,” Vann said.
Starting Wednesday, the fire will be handled by a Rocky Mountain Area Incident Management Team Black, a Type 2 team. The fire is currently being handled by a Type 3 team, and Type 2 team members are shadowing and meeting with the Type 3 team before they take over.
Type 2 team members are called in for more complex fires after an in-depth analysis by a fire manager.
“The public and firefighter safety is always No. 1,” Vann said.
While the fire made minimal movement Tuesday, Vann said he expects it will be burning for several months, though he said it is difficult to predict how large it will grow. The Forest Service also has implemented several closures for popular trails along Seedhouse Road just north of Clark in Routt County.
Trails include Gilpin Lake, the Zirkel Circle, Gold Creek Lake, Three Islands Lake, Mica Lake, Mount Zirkel Summit, a section of the Continental Divide Trail and more. The closure extends from the national forest boundary near Clark, north to Big Agnes Mountain, east over the divide to the forest boundary in Jackson County near Red Canyon and south to Mount Ethel. The closure includes the popular Slavonia Trailhead.
“This is probably going to be a longer duration fire, much like Middle Fork,” Vann said, as much of the fire is located in remote parts of the forest that can be difficult or unsafe for firefighters to reach.
The Middle Fork Fire burned about five miles south of the current fire last September and grew to 20,517 acres before it was suppressed.
While current closures may be an annoyance, Vann said they are necessary for both the safety of recreationalists and to protect firefighting resources. When firefighters see or hear of people in areas near the fire, they have to divert resources away from the fire to get people out of the area safely.
The Forest Service implemented the closures Sunday, and Vann said firefighters have encountered multiple people in restricted areas. While no one has faced a penalty yet, Vann said anyone recreating in a closed area could be facing a fine of at least several hundred dollars.
The Muddy Slide Fire is also still burning in South Routt County. According to an update an Inciweb posted Tuesday morning, that fire is burning at 4,093 acres and is 57% contained.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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