Fire officials: Sawmill Fire helpful to forest health, habitat |

Fire officials: Sawmill Fire helpful to forest health, habitat

Craig Daily Press Staff Report

A fire that began earlier this week west of Maybell has grown to 76 acres, the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit reported Thursday night.

The Sawmill Fire, as fire officials are calling the blaze, was reported at noon Tuesday on Bureau of Land Management land in the Sawmill Canyon area 24 miles west of Maybell.

Fire officials said lightning is the cause.

No structures are threatened. The fire is burning pinyon-juniper and ponderosa pine.

Smoke has been visible intermittently from Craig, Maybell and spots along U.S. Highway 40 since the fire began.

Reports from engine crews monitoring and patrolling the fire Thursday indicated fire activity was "moderate with smoldering and occasional torching."

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Allowing the fire to burn within an established perimeter will help improve forest health and wildlife habitat, fire officials reported.

It will also help reduce the potential for future high intensity fires to burn through the area.

"Much of the landscape in western Moffat County is fire dependent," fire officials said in a news release. "Low intensity fire is critical to many ecosystems, including ponderosa pine stands."

"It just makes sense to manage a fire that is not threatening structures this way," said Dave Toelle, assistant fire management officer for the Northwest Colorado Fire Management unit. "It's a safe, cost-effective way to bring the benefits of fire to the ecosystem."

Two engines managing the fire Thursday were from the Bureau of Land Management and Wildlife Service.

The Craig Hot Shots worked earlier in the week prepping roads in the fire area by removing brush and low hanging branches to improve access for firefighters and equipment.

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