Firefighters continue to baby-sit small Zirkel Wilderness fire |

Firefighters continue to baby-sit small Zirkel Wilderness fire

South Fork Fire closures

— It’s still smoldering and spreading, but a wildfire burning in the rugged Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area remained small enough over the weekend to burn without the intervention of firefighters.

The local Storm Peak Module firefighting crew continues to only have to baby-sit the South Fork Fire northeast of Steamboat Springs.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Aaron Voos said the lightning-caused fire grew over the weekend and has burned an estimated 12 acres, double the 6 acres consumed last week.

Voos said despite the growth in the area, the fire’s potential of spreading much further remains low.

“It’s still within the management area, so there’s no concern as far as the need to suppress it right now,” Voos said.

Trails in the area remain closed.

He said a helicopter, based in Laramie, Wyoming, is available to observe and suppress the fire, but it has not been requested.

That could change if the fire spreads.

“It’s still cooking up there,” Voos said.

The fire was discovered Thursday and is burning about one mile south of the Three Island Lake trailhead along the south fork of the Elk River.

Smoke has been visible in the North Routt area in recent days as the fire consumes beetle-killed lodgepole pine trees.

The rugged terrain in the area has prevented the Forest Service from sending in firefighters.

While firefighters in Routt County took a hands-off approach to the wildfire, crews in Moffat County have been working around the clock to put out fires that have threatened homes and other infrastructure.

In Elk Springs, firefighters caught a break when favorable weather conditions helped them get a handle on a large fire that has burned 450 acres since Saturday.

“They’re doing good out there. They’re having good luck with this weather,” Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Susan Valente told the Craig Daily Press.

The BLM predicted the fire would be fully contained by the end of the day.

The fire threatened homes, sage grouse habitat and oil and gas facilities.

Also in Moffat County, firefighters were able to fully contain the Alkali Fire, which burned more than 20,000 acres.

Routt and Moffat counties have had vastly different experiences so far this wildfire season.

Large wildfires have popped up in recent days in dry Moffat, while the fire danger in Routt remains moderate.

“We were fortunate we had a good winter and we picked up that rain in the early spring,” Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said. “We’re still doing pretty good, although it’s more dry near Hayden.”

The forecast for Northwest Colorado includes chances of heavy rain and thunderstorms for much of this week.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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